A PLACE IN THE WORLD, an Argentine/Uruguayan co-production, takes elements from the American western and fuses them with a social drama set in a remote valley in Argentina. Directed by Adolfo Aristarain, perhaps best known for 1981's TIME FOR REVENGE, this lyrical amalgam explores the
complexities of political idealism versus capitalist exploitation, while providing an accessible coming-of-age story of youthful romance.
Aristarain and Alberto Lecchi's screenplay, based on a story by the former, uses the wraparound device of a reminiscence by a medical student who recalls events of the early 1980s which helped shape his maturity. At the time a young teenager, Ernesto (Gaston Batyi) is smitten with Luciana
(Lorena Del Rio), the daughter of Zamora (Hugo Arana), the tough foreman who is the right-hand man of the Bermejo Valley's landowner Andrada (Rodolfo Ranni). The local sheepherders have formed a collective, which is headed by Nelda (Leonor Benedetto), a nun; and Ernesto's parents, Mario (Federico
Luppi), a schoolteacher, and Ana (Cecilia Roth), a doctor. Andrada tries to break up the collective. Hans (Jose Sacristan), a geologist, turns up with a plan to flood the valley for a dam. Ernesto defies his parents by tutoring the illiterate Luciana after Mario throws her out of school.
Meanwhile, Hans and Ana are drawn to each other and he begins to see the herders' point of view.
With its thickly woven plot, leisurely narrative pace, and running time of two hours, A PLACE IN THE WORLD may be exasperating for some viewers, but its cumulative effect, helped by cinematographer Ricardo De Angelis' evocation of stark rural life, is considerable. Both stylistically and in the
notion of a boy struggling to understand the complexities of hero worship and community oppression, there are echoes of George Stevens's SHANE, but the movie retains an original vision. Aristarain's cast delivers uniformly fine performances, particularly those of theater actress Benedetto and
Pedro Almodovar favorite Roth. (Adult situations, sexual situations.)
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