“Marshland” First-Rate Spanish Crime Thriller
By Skip Sheffield
“Marshland” is the best motion picture to come out of Spain in many years. Now this gripping, often gruesome crime thriller has made it to the USA. South Florida had it first when it was a big hit at the 2015 Miami International Film Festival. Friday, Aug. 21 it opens at Movies of Delray, Movies of Lake Worth and Cinema Paradiso.
“La Isla Minima” as it is known in Spanish, is set in September, 1980 in the desolate, swampy, Andalusian lowlands of southern Spain at the tail end of the Gen. Franco regime. Two police homicide detectives from Madrid have been sent to investigate the disappearance of two teenage girls last seen at a local fiesta. The mission begins inauspiciously. When the cops’ car breaks down, they lose one of their hotel reservations and the mismatched duo is forced to bunk together.
Juan (Javier Gutierrez) is the older, much hotter-tempered, more reckless cop. Pedro is the younger, much calmer and more circumspect cop. You could call them a good cop/bad cop duo. It doesn’t take the detectives long to discover there are “extenuating circumstances” to the girls’ disappearance. They had gone missing before but always returned. It wasn’t just a random disappearance. They girls were unhappy and they were behaving recklessly. The mother of the girls (Maria Varod) slips Pedro some damaged 35 mm film negatives that offer proof the girls were seeing men they shouldn’t see and going places they shouldn’t go. Their home life is turbulent. Their father (Perico Cervantes) is strict and disapproving and may be in some trouble of his own.
It doesn’t take long for the detectives discover murder most foul. The girls were raped, tortured and mutilated before they were killed, and they were not the only girls to meet such a grisly fate.
“Marshland” is a cracking good murder mystery with many a plot twist set in a time when Spain was moving from Franco’s repressive, corrupt dictatorship to a more liberal, democratic government. Juan symbolizes the old regime. Pedro is the new. In the middle are a lot of bad people, some of them connected directly to the throne of power. Like its setting, “Marshland” is dark, murky and creepy, yet it has an eerie beauty.