Unclassifiable from the generic point of view, it could be seen as a drama or a horror or thriller, in which lurks from the beginning the feeling of inevitable tragedy. La Ciénega presents a story full of absences (a constant of Argentina in recent decades), with a lot of characters caught in the same space, where nature seems a trap and a threat rather than a place of recreation and rest. The protagonists family groups players (two families with four children each) living in an unawareness and wrapped in a lethargy that prevented them from any possibility of redemption or optimism about the immediate future, which make that this film proposal departs from the usual cinematic canon.
Located in Salta, the region the director comes from, La Cienaga shows with surprising honesty the ills accumulated through the time by Argentine society, from racism to class differences still existing, together with the classic confrontation between Porteños (those born in Buenos Aires) and those born in the provinces, fueled by mutual resentment, jealousy and distrust that are always waiting for an excuse to appear.
In a country that was known internationally at the social level for its women (Evita, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo ) it is not surprising that the protagonist of the story be the two mothers: excellent Mercedes Morán, which recreates to the level of perfection the accent of the region and an admirable Graciela Borges, who in the role of an alcoholic woman and bedridden, condemned to respect a kind of family curse, perceives what is going on around them. A Woman of few words who when he speaks does so with the forcefulness and clearness enough to demonstrate the dissatisfaction that causes your environment. Both women represent the matriarchy that remains in force in much of Latin America.
Visceral film at moments, wine and blood combine to enhance the religious atmosphere, present thanks to the constant media presence commenting the appearance of a Virgin, accompanied by Carnival celebrations and urban legends belief, which provides the social and cultural differences present in the film.
La Ciénaga requires an viewer, since at the beginning of the film, the continuous flow of characters can result confusing, but Martel conducts the story with a firm pulse (it is not a coincidence that her screenplay was awarded at Sundance); she knows what and how tell her story, in addition to being supported by the photographic work of Hugo Colace (who worked with Eliseo Subiela in El Lado Oscuro del Corazón ), which increases the alluring atmosphere of the plot and the isolation of the protagonists.
The remarkable acting work surpasses what we often see in Argentine films. Together with consecrated actors stand out the group of young actors selected through an audition that made over 1600 interviews. Shot in just 40 days, almost without improvisation, Martel chooses a very personal narrative structure, in which the camera is just another member of the family group locked in the suffocating February of Salta. Her talent was recognized with the Silver Bear for Best First Work at the Berlin International Film Festival.