“Have you forgotten?”
For middle age Armando, exceptionally played by Alfredo Castro, “forgive and forget” it’s a motto he is not so keen to live by as we learn from “accompanying” him on this anguish tale of unpredictable and damaged relationships.
“From Afar”, showing at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, is the debut striking feature of Venezuelan director Lorenzo Vigas, and explores the unlikely relationship between Armando and Elder, a teenager thug, focusing on how they interact with each other and with their own personal issues.
A father-son, son-father dynamic is established after a turbulent first encounter – fuelled by dysfunctional families, depression, loneliness and desire.
If on one hand Armando cruises the streets of Caracas looking for young men for dispensable sex, in a clear attempt to mirror the probable abuse he suffered from his own dad.
On the other hand Elder found in Armando the caring father figure he never knew existed, since his own father used to “beat me senseless to show me how a man should be.”
Much of the action in the film is based on the actors’ body language and facial expressions rather than dialogues.
This gives a slow pace to the story – there are a lot of silent scenes – and, at the same time, it highlights the acting skills of both main actors and the mood given to the film. A mix of drama and thriller where we feel the anticipation that something is going to happen even if just for the feeling.
Castro is a veteran highly praised actor while Luis Silva, who plays Elder, is debuting on the big screen.
This discrepancy between the actors’ professional experience worked really well here. The director, who deliberately kept the two apart until filming, said: “With this project I mixed professional and non-professional actors, and it turned out to be an excellent way of creating tension, and that goes well with the form of the movie”.
Beautifully shot on the streets of the Venezuelan capital, the photography is so amazing that you have the impression that it’s a film set rather than actually Caracas.
The film, which went on to win the Golden Lion at last year’s Venice International Film Festival, is part of the Audience Award at the GFF 16, and have good chances to repeat the same success in Glasgow even if there are quite a few holes in the story and the viewer will leave the cinema with many unanswered questions.
Perhaps, because this is a second part on a trilogy, some of those questions could possibly be explored in the director’s next project.
In the meantime it’s worth to watch From Afar.