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El Crimen del Padre Amaro: A Brief Review

 
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PostPosted: 03.06.2004 4:33 pm    Post subject: El Crimen del Padre Amaro: A Brief Review Reply with quote

A wiser man than myself once said that true character is revealed by what one does when no one is looking. This idea is the core of what "The Crime of Padre Amaro" is about.

Directed by Carlos Carrera, this film is about a young priest who arrives at a small village for training. On the surface the town appears as humble and genuine as any small village, but gradually the priest finds that the village is filled with dark secrets, and in doing so soon reveals some of his own.

Father Amaro is played by Gael Garcia Bernal(Y Tu Mama Tambien), and what a wonderful job he does. He exudes an innocence in the film that makes you fall in love with him, makes you believe in him. From giving a stranger money on a bus to forgiving a man who accosts him on the street, he seems to know his job well and only has the good of the village in his heart. Yet as the story unfolds and his darker side emerges, something in Bernal's appearance changes. There is a dimmer light in his eyes. It is a truly subtle performance, utterly convincing from beginning to end.

The supporters are wonderful as well, especially Ana Claudia Talancon, who I had not seen before this film. She was graceful and tragic in every sense. Her unraveling and loss of self is hypnotic on screen.

While the performances are great, the film's major flaw was the portrayal of Father Benito. His story became muddled and withdrawn, with no climax or conclusion. It seemed to be a sidenote never realized or revisited. We see his good intentions, his regrets for decisions made, but there is little more. He pulled focus away from the deeper story. He either should have been developed much more, or forgotten altogether.

The story itself can be a bit melodramatic at times, but what I loved about it was how it speaks to the fragility in all of us. It speaks volumes as to how strong lust can be, no matter how wrong; how dark the human mind can get, no matter what the cost; how powerful greed can be, no matter who we hurt. This film, while focusing on religious figures, didn't evoke anti-religious emotions. It saw it's characters as humans more than priests, and humans can be all the evil in the world when no one is watching.

This is also due to the very sharp direction of Carrera. His slow revelations of the films characters are what makes the film intriguing. We see conflict in Father Amaro, but confidence in his choices. We see truly flawed people in that village, but maybe those people remind us of ourselves and the people around us. Carrera knows that there is darkness in every one of us, and what he does so brilliantly is make us love the characters first, and then see their darkness after.

Even with its flaws the film is a success on many levels. At times the story may be predictable, but this is not a film about twists. Carrera is not trying to fool his audience and then surprise them with tricks in the story. It's very basic and very dark, and is haunting in its conclusion.
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