Monday, 17 September 2012

Amores Perros

The first film in Director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ‘death’ trilogy (followed by 21 Grams and Babel) is a sombre and at times difficult to watch drama set in Mexico City around the themes of class, loyalty and cruelty. The film is constructed via three interlocking stories which come together by means of a car crash. The film is non-linear and dips from one story to the next, slowly building up a picture as to how and where each character fits into the wider story.

Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal) uses his brother’s dog to make money in organised dog fights and is in love with his brother’s pregnant wife Susana (Vanessa Bauche). One day he and a friend are being chased by crooks when he crashes his car into another, being driven by the model and actress Valeria (Goya Toledo) who is in the midst of an affair with Daniel (Alvaro Guerrero), a married magazine publisher. At the scene of the crash is a down and out, vagrant man ‘El Chivo’ (Emilio Echevarria) who pushes a scrap metal cart around but hides a deeply hidden and cheerless past. The three strands only come together for the car crash scene, colliding like three marbles before being spun into differing trajectories. The film had me gripped from start to finish but left me wanting more from at least two of the three strands.

Amores Perros which is roughly translated as ‘Love’s Bitch’ is not easy to watch. As well as the great amount of pain and suffering each story brings to its human characters, there is a great deal of what looks like terrible animal cruelty. Having read up on the film subsequently it appears that the dog fights were just extremely well choreographed and edited whilst being carefully monitored by the Mexican equivalent of the RSPCA but while watching I felt very uncomfortable as saddened by what I was seeing on screen. The fights are vicious and the sight of dead and dying dogs being tossed out as though garbage was difficult to watch. Apparently the dogs were heavily anesthetised for these scenes which gave the floppy, death like appearance but I still didn’t like to see it. Some of the human characters end up bruised, bloodied and worse too and not just from the film’s central car crash. One scene in particular features a savage beating in a sequence which shows the brutality that people are capable of dishing out for money.

A central theme is loyalty and this is portrayed with the use of dogs as ‘man’s best friend’. Each strand of the story features some sort of take on loyalty whether it’s hiring a hit man to kill your partner, cheating with your brother’s wife, having an affair with a woman, sticking by someone through extremely tough circumstances or remaining loyal to a loved one you haven’t seen in twenty years. Each section of the plot features loyalty and it isn’t always cut and dry as to where that loyalty begins and ends. The film’s conclusion frustrated me slightly as only one of the triumvirate storylines actually had a definitive ending. The other two were fairly open ended which after spending 153 minutes with the characters annoyed me. In a sense it left the mind to wonder about what was likely or could have happened but I also wanted closure. The final scene in the El Chivo storyline also had a Tarantino-esque feel to it and in fact the whole film felt as though it could have come from the mind of the Pulp Fiction Director.

The cinematography has a gritty realism to it which is in part down to the dirty, well trodden, sweaty streets of Mexico City and partly due to the shaky camera work which occasionally got in the way of the story telling. Although it was successful in bringing the audience closer to the story it was a little distracting at times. The Mexico City setting is actually one of the highlights of the film. For such a large and important city I know hardly anything about it and have rarely seen a film set there so it was nice to see the different areas of the city and this is where the class element of the story comes in. The three strands are told from clearly defined Middle, Working and Under Class perspectives and switching between the three allows the audience to see the different worlds inside the one city.

The acting was pretty good throughout with each performer seemingly giving their all for their roles. The standout performer though was Emilio Echevarria who undergoes a complete physical and mental transformation to play the role. His performance in the closing scene was mesmerising and I wouldn’t be surprised if it had bought many people to tears. 

Overall Amores Perros is a film which is worthy of its BAFTA and Cannes wins and Oscar nomination. It is a compelling and unpredictable film which features three interesting storylines which are melded together to create an excellent triptych. It feels a little long at times but there is little you would want to lose from the finished product.


No comments:

Post a Comment