DVD Review: Lucrecia Martel’s budding talent is on display in La Ciénaga

The title of Argentine director Lucrecia Martel’s first feature, made in 2001, translates to The Swamp. There’s an actual swamp in the movie—early on, a bunch of kids find a cow trapped in its muddy depths, returning days later to put it out of its misery—but Martel makes her metaphorical intention clear in the opening scene, which depicts a group of bourgeois adults lazing around beside a filthy backyard pool. When they need to move their deck chairs, they don’t lift them, but instead drag them slowly across the ground, creating a metal-on-concrete noise that suggests what it might sound like if you could hear something rust. (The newly released Criterion edition of the film uses this singular effect to accompany its main menu.) The sequence is a tour de force of somnolent atmosphere, wordless and pitiless. It’s also incredibly blunt, and La Ciénaga …

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