- It is a very strong debut from Lucrecia Martel—the title literally translates to “the swamp” and the opening pool set piece one of the film’s highlights (all three shots above from the opening). Martel starts off with these drunk upper/middle-class laying around by an unclean (very green swamp-like) pool.
- Mercedes Moran plays Tali, and Graciela Borges (really the center of the film) plays Mecha and they are sisters living in provincial Argentina. Mecha and her husband are in this sort of inebriated, apathetic malaise that hovers around and infects everyone in and around their house (which 75% of the film takes place).
- What results is an atmosphere of racism (against local Indian people- including those working in the home) and indifference that allows for hazardous behavior from their children. The boys run around scrapped in the woods with rifles. The older kids dabble in incest- they are all physically battered and bruised and there is no supervision. Dogs are constantly barking, the place is close to squalor, the phone is frequently ringing with nobody answering.
- Martel is a realist. This is observational, the frame is often purposefully obstructed, characters are not really introduced and they do not have motivations. There is no musical score, great beauty in the film, or really any discernible stylistic pattern. Everything (like Mecha’s life) is in casual disarray.
There is a real consistency in the mise-en-scene (while not being too concerned about a conventional narrative- which is fine)- not as much as her follow up film The Holy Girl (2004) but still- lots of people laying around in the frame. A person is lying on a bed (usually drunk or hungover) in almost every scene.
- There is a little of La Dolce Vita with the newscast sighting of the Madonna. Martel bounces off this as part of the formal structure at least four times.
- Lack of bathing, heavy makeup, disheveled—insulting their housekeepers— dogs running around lawlessly—sunglasses, hangovers and bad skin—young girls with a ton of makeup.
- With the ladder accident climax Martel flickers to a montage of empty rooms as a nice touch
- The film ends with the next generation repeating the mistakes of previous one (a great visual bookend) with two young sisters laying by the pool.
- Recommend but not in the top 10 of 2001