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The Headless Woman

January 23, 2012

The Headless Woman (2008)
Director: Lucrecia Martel
Actors: María Onetto, Claudia Cantero, César Bordón

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Synopsis: A middle-aged Argentinian woman, Verónica, (María Onetto) runs over a small boy or dog on an isolated rural road, and over the following week, her guilt and unease over the incident grows….

Review: The utterly distinctive cinematic idiom of Lucrecia Martel makes a return with this hauntingly elusive essay about the psychological aftermath of an enigmatic car accident on an isolated Argentine road. What makes Martel so different from other wannabe arthouse directors is that where those filmmakers use the ‘slow’ aesthetic to draw out the glaringly obvious metaphors and subtexts of their narratives, Martel’s style is dreamlike and transcendent. Her films are like little vignettes – rarely over 90 minutes – and they’re usually more concerned with taking you into the mindset of a conflicted protagonist and their social strata, rather than drawing out clean-cut morals and themes like most conventionally classical pieces of work.

The Headless Woman is particularly compelling with its early plot hook of middle-aged protagonist, Verónica, carelessly running over something with her car on a rural road while playing with her mobile phone, and then fleeing the scene of the accident. This dramatic moment – where the consequence of what happened is purposely withheld from the audience – is a prelude to a hypnotic study of this lady and her world, as the enormity of what (might have) happened slowly begins to register in her subconscious. (January 2012)

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