Toonbots message board: Imagining Argentina - 9.0 - *SPOILERS*

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Michael Sun Jul 30 22:34:14 2006
Imagining Argentina - 9.0 - *SPOILERS*

A visually nice movie with excellent acting, but the story was frustrating.

I'll spoil it for you, since you're not going to see it anyway. Antonio Banderas plays a guy in Argentina whose journalist wife (improbably but wonderfully cast as Emma Thompson) is disappeared in 1976. Those of you foggy on your Argentinian history, as I was, will need to realize that there was an oppressive regime governing the country. More than 30,000 people disappeared, many just because the government thugs wanted some nookie and they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But Banderas is a theater manager and Thompson a journalist. She's disappeared for paying attention to the disappearances. And then Banderas realizes he has a psychic power. If anyone holds his hand and tells him the name and circumstances of their disappeared loved one, he knows, immediately, their fate while in the power of the oppressor. Except for his wife, of course, because that would make things too easy. He just gets little dream-sequence symbolic stuff about his wife.

And the frustrating part is so very damned Spanish -- this wonderful psychic power is read-only. He can't actually act on any of this information; what he sees *will* happen, no matter how horrible, like, you know, the fact that his best friend will be tortured and then thrown alive from a helicopter over the ocean. Or that his daughter (captured later, after he just won't shut up, naturally) will be repeatedly raped, used as a torture tool for his wife, and then shot in a mass killing to cover up the evidence.

His dreams take him within a good stone's throw of his wife's prison, after a two-day drive into the Pampas, which look amazingly like Kansas (no, seriously, they filmed on location, but the landscape is distinctly American with all these very European-looking towns in it, very weird.) But then he gets the feeling that he "isn't meant to find her, she must find me." And he's just FINE with that, while his wife is being gang-raped by Argentina's finest. And he knows this, because he's PSYCHIC.

And it was this aspect that I hated. It's sort of a Latin thing, said by a gringo who hasn't got any understanding of the Latin psyche beyond living in Puerto Rico for a while and reading some literature in Spanish -- the inevitability of our fate. See, his wife is fated to suffer, and his daughter is fated to die, and the wonder of his life is that he at least is permitted to know their fate. He doesn't have to suffer not knowing, and he helps a whole lot of other people know the fate of their loved ones, too. But he can't *change* his fate or anybody else's.

This is utterly foreign to me and indeed, I suspect, to the majority of Americans. Knowledge is power, and power is basically the capability of changing at least teeny tiny bits of your fate.

Banderas, too, has a bit of power to change the fate of Argentina. He has one of the main generals in the crosshairs of an implausibly present sniper's rifle (come on, where did he get that? Why wasn't the government already notified that a known wacko had a sniper's rifle?) -- but he refuses to shoot when he realizes the asshole has a daughter.

So again. He lets Argentina burn and his wife and daughter get raped because he doesn't want to kill somebody's father. Sure, makes sense to me. Not.

It drove my wife crazy. She would have shot the daughter, too. Hell, she would probably have nuked Buenos Aires. So we argued about that for about an hour after the movie. I held it would have been immoral to shoot the daughter, but thought shooting the general would be a surgical strike that might make sense.

So it's worth watching, but you won't. Not now, I've ruined it for you.

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