Director: Lucrecia Martel

Like a Tennessee Williams play set in Argentina’s countryside, La ciénaga focuses on grand ladies in decline, swampy settings, family bonds and binds that forever pull, and alcohol, lots of alcohol. Family matriarch Mecha is so stewed in her own alcoholic juices that she rarely makes it out of bed, an especially impressive feat given that she’s in charge of four rowdy children and a useless husband all sharing a country house for the summer. Her cousin Tali lives nearby, also the mother of four children. Although her drinking is more intermittent and her husband slightly more useful, she doesn’t seem any more focused than Mecha and spends her days, when not at Mecha’s, randomly fixing up the house or thinking of things to get for the kids. Jose, the oldest of Mecha’s children, is knowingly handsome and sleeping with much older Mercedes and also possibly the young maid and seems to make sexually tinged moves amongst the younger girls too. It’s all very confusing, convoluted, and possibly incestuous, but in the chaos, clutter, and alcoholic haze underscored by the camera’s at times blurred imagery, it’s very hard to make out clear causes and effects or intentional rights and wrongs. Like real life, La ciénaga is messy, unclear, filled with despair and danger, and for very brief moments heart-achingly beautiful.

Maria-Christina Villaseñor