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MOVIES: 1976 - Review

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1976 is a bold, subtle thriller under the rule of an authoritarian government. Director Manuela Martelli paints the perspective of Carmen, a grandmother, who is rapidly swept up in the resistance when she’s looking after a young man in secret, running errands for him that puts her in increasing danger as the film progresses. It’s tense, nuanced – and will have you wanting to learn more about this period in Chile’s history when it’s done.

Anchored around a committed, nuanced and multifaceted performance by Aline K├╝ppenheim at 1976's core there’s a quiet sense of agency to this film that propels it forward. The sense that something’s always happening and its characters are observers – it starts with Carmen witnessing an incident, but it’s just out of sight of the camera – and the way the camera stays with Carmen throughout gives the audience a sense of protection and purpose as much as it does her character, who finds a cause that she’s ready to fight for. The worry and the sense of unease and dread the film captures when she’s stopped by the police is palpable, the elegant nature of the film’s shooting really adding a strong atmospheric depth to it as a result.

We have the characters as stereotypes that don’t get as fleshed out as much as I would have hoped but it gives them well-rounded foundations. For a debut it gets a lot of things right – Alejandra Moffat’s screenplay, co-writing with Martelli, is gripping and I’d take this over a louder, shoutier thriller anyday of the week – the way its presented by Martelli gives the film much of its depth without really seeing a need to go beyond the surface.

The harsh treatment of Chile’s leftists is depicited in brutal fashion – bodies thrown up on the shore and people second-guessing everything – adds to the tense atmosphere and a synth score gives the film a fairly unique vibe that underlines the narrative effectively. But it’s K├╝ppenheim who holds the film together: the duplicity at the family functions whilst Carmen is wrestling with something deeper gives the film a moving, biting edge that allows her to showcase her range.

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