Furtive (Al Acecho) directed by Francisco D’Eufemia, Review

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The film is an environmental thriller with a detective, action, and criminal aspect. Characters experience an inner tragedy given by important complex moral motivations. 

Furtive (Al Acecho) directed by Francisco D’Eufemia – Argentina – 2019

Pablo Silva (Rodrigo de la Serna) a ranger on trial, tries to rebuild and recover his life, after finding himself embroiled in unlawful events. He is moved to a new area, the Pereyra Iraola Park Biosphere Reserve, a protected place where not many want to move. Initially, everything seems normal and calm, he knows his colleagues, Camila Marquez (Belén Blanco) and Venandi (Walter Jakob), weaves apparently confidential relationships and connections, although they know his past and the disciplinary procedures he is going through. His troubles seem unimportant. Venandi, director of the reserve, does not get along very well with the farmers of the area: these areas of the reserve hide more things than you can imagine.

Silva seems to have quickly adapted to the new routine until one morning he finds an injured fox in a cage. Pablo decides to heal and feed him. Intrigued, he investigates to find out what’s going on and what’s behind the exotic animals in some cages in the military area. He comes across and discovers a group of illegal hunters operating within the reserve. The role Silva is supposed to have in the story as a forest ranger should be clear, but from this point, the ambiguous nature of his character appears. He is empathetic with the fate of these predated animals, but he also fits into the role of the poacher, which relates him to the motivations of criminals.

Furtive is a film, set in a natural park in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, which, starting from the themes of corruption, impunity and traffickers, passing through the wild territory of the city, touches and confronts the interior and the conflictual part of the human being. Argentine director Francisco D’Eufemia depicts deceptions and machinations in a rural and natural setting, using an unusual landscape for an action thriller.

The director, in this independent production, shows surprisingly, the Pereyra Iraola park to create a very intimate connection between nature and the protagonist. Pablo Silva has an ambiguous, dark, and murky past and a high-level connection with the wilderness. Even in the choice of the surname Silva, whose assonance and meaning indicate forest, wildness, nature, and greenery, we find traces of the spiritual ambivalence between the protagonist and the natural park. The place is a wild oasis where anything can happen. In Furtive the space, the circumscribed environment in which the protagonist moves and the story unfolds occupies a place of great importance for the evolution and exploration of the topics covered, which is a profound introspection that sensibly materializes in the immersion scenes and fusion between man and nature: the context in which the film is shot characterizes the lead actor. Nature is another protagonist, the park is the macro character, who absorbs Silva.

The pursuits in nature advance the thriller on a reflective path that highlights the state of a man bound by circumstances. It shows a character with a wild and selfish nature who adapts to surviving in a world devoid of ethics. The action appears among the main vectors of the story, but in the function of the dramatic psychological aspect to paint the portrait of Silva. Intrigue and movement are functional for exploring and focusing on the polarities and contradictions of the protagonist. This is not a mere action film, it’s a film about a non-stereotypical character.

The world premiere of the film took place in the third edition of the Pingyao International Film Festival

The protagonist’s life is a disaster, due to his illicit actions and his shadowy side that has diverted him to a neglected and conflicting place, where his unreliable entity, and the criminal past that he hides, materializes concretely. The story of Pablo Silva is about a life trapped between a failure, the uncertainty of choice, and the temptation to give in to old habits. Pablo is in the park while his disciplinary case is being evaluated, but no specific details are given. People are what they are due to the circumstances and the choices they make and are constantly put to new tests and in a position to make new choices that can change or confirm a certain nature of the individual. What could happen to Silva from the audience’s point of view is uncertain. The actions that define individuals are important and not what others think.

The natural environment is claustrophobic, due to the movements of the main character and the movements of the camera that make Silva almost a trapped animal, just like those found in the reserve. The trees, empty and crumbling buildings are the natural and architectural bars that form the cage of the human being who is circumscribed and blocked like the fox. The fox becomes an essential point of reflection on the human condition. The animal spends almost the entire film in a cage, just like the protagonist. Pablo seems to do everything to save the fox and to free himself. A further sense of oppression is given by the knowledge that Silva is in the process of rehabilitation and therefore could be sentenced and end up in jail. The audience might wonder if jail is the protagonist’s choice since various levels of reading are visualizing cages within other cages.

When Silva takes care of the caged fox and, perhaps, in his own way, of Camila, the viewer may think that has guessed who Silva is, but once again finds further complexities. Just as the protagonist’s soul is tossed from one extreme to the other, so too the audience is led in the narration of the plot from one feeling to another which can lead viewers to wonder several times what is Silva’s role in the whole story: Is the good or the bad guy? D’Eufemia in this way clearly brings on screen the difficulty. The female protagonist is also experiencing a conflict, Camila seems to have calmly accepted her leg problem until Pablo arrives in her office. Camila’s role in the plot, leads the viewer to further doubts about the nature of Pablo Silva based on his actions, towards Camila one wonders if he really cares about her or if his actions are motivated by other reasons.

The ecology and the issue of animal trafficking, of the oppressive behaviors on the planet’s fauna, are not analyzed or examined with the lens of morality, but are in purpose, for moments of reflection on the protagonist who is left to his free will. He doesn’t choose to be a hero, and neither does the director try to show him as such, on the contrary, the director wants to illuminate him in his real dimension and extract his more human side. During the film there are long intervals in which situations seem stable and ordinary, with interludes of tension and violence, never excessive, but real, to balance nature within the protagonist’s emotional universe.

Pablo Silva is played by Rodrigo de la Serna, known in the roles of Pope Francisco and Alberto Granado, friend of Che Guevara in “Motorcycle Diaries” and recently one of the protagonists in “La Casa de Papel”.

Man is part of nature, he evolved from it, nature was his first home, he comes from it, but after having partially detached himself from it, he appropriated its wealth, he uses its rare beauties to create a new artificial world, which despite continuously filled with symbols and “trophies” belonging to the natural world doesn’t satisfy him, they lead him to feel more suffocated and trapped. On the other hand, when the man returns to nature he feels free, relaxed, but also wild. After having continuously looted that house, despite being welcomed with open arms, he feels a sense of guilt and pain. Duality becomes the only dominant reality. The director tells us exactly about this duality. It doesn’t want to put a moral judgment on what his protagonist has done previously, it doesn’t try to justify or condemn him. D’Eufemia stages the moment, the tormented experience in which Silva would like to feel again that peace and well-being that nature offers to each individual, but is split between the errors and vices of the past. The moment of choice is represented in the context of tension.

Ariel Polenta‘s music plays a fundamental role, to emphasize the protagonist’s concern and psychological tension. The music, creating a rarefied atmosphere, accentuates and helps the action and suspense. It acts as a vehicle that shows the connection between Pablo and the natural environment and the particular bipolar aspect created. Things are not what they seem. The soundtrack also tells of Pablo’s escape from himself, the escape from his mistakes, the escape from his responsibilities, from the possibility of change, the uncertainty of choice, because sometimes changes are scary, as there is no certainty, is not possible to know if they could be for the better or if they could be worse than the mistakes of the past. People can mentally get used to certain mistakes and begin to accept them and it becomes difficult to take a new path.

Francisco D’Eufemia in addition to being the director is editor and co-writer with Fernando Krapp

D’Eufemia has special attention to the territory that becomes a key to understanding the protagonist who is connected in his own way with the forest almost in a spiritual way. The atmosphere and natural environments with wild animals, casual and chaotic nature, exalt and highlight the signs of the ambiguous and tormented character full of uncertainties. The filmmaker Francisco D’Eufemia had already approached this kind of natural territory in his previous work Fuga de la Patagonia (Escape from Patagonia) 2016, a story he co-directed with Javier Zevallos. Furtive, his second feature film as a director was shot in twenty days in Pereyra Iraola Park. D’Eufemia said that he knew the reserve since childhood and that he had visited the area also in adolescence and adulthood. In fact, from the images of the film, we can see and understand a deep contact and knowledge of the territory from which the intrigue and suspense of the plot benefits. The elaborate action sequences demonstrate the successful technical challenge faced by the production that shot the scenes and the chase sequences in a natural space that could be complicated and dangerous.

Diego Poleri‘s photography space and environment occupy a primary place of importance, as a reference to underline the inner point of view of the protagonist, whose sensitivity materializes through shots and pursuits that see him frantically in the woods, always in a state of alertness and paranoia. The moving camera is consistent with the dramatic difficulties experienced by the protagonist. Despite the beauty of the landscapes, the camera follows Silva in an energetic and convulsive way, in the park, in the woods, and to the river on the trail of the animal traffickers. What apparently looks like a simple chase between prey and hunter, forester and animal traffickers, represents the inevitable fight of the soul troubled by the contradiction of the moral dilemma. Pablo Silva is tormented, upset, debated between good and evil, he is faced with very important moral conflicts and spiritual and ethical concerns. At the same time, he is persecuted and persecutor; the victim, and the executioner. The viewer who witnesses the drama never has really clear elements that make the difference to understand what happens completely to Silva and what choice he can make to demonstrate who he really is.

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