Carmen (Aline Küppenheim) is a reasonably well of woman because of her husband’s profession as a doctor. She decides to go away to their beach house in Chile while her husband is working and there she is reacquainted with Padre Sanchez (Hugo Medina) who needs her help to after a wounded man who has claimed sanctuary with him.
She meets Elias (Nicolás Sepúlveda) and he comes across as quite different from what she was expecting. She thought that only a criminal would go to such lengths as to seek sanctuary from a priest, but as she gets further involved in Elias’ problems, she finds that life under the rule of Augusto Pinochet has hidden depths.
1976 is a political thriller directed by Manuela Martelli and co-written by Alejandra Moffat. Putting her a lone woman in such a potentially dangerous situation, director Martelli in her feature debut, attempts to show her home country and its troubled past through her eyes.
An outsider, unfamiliar with the political regime that the country found itself in in the late Seventies, 1976 shows Carmen’s eyes being opened to a situation she cannot control.
Once she gets an idea of what Elias is facing, then her worldview completely changes. What we see of her everyday life outside of caring for the wounded man is ordinary enough, but the pulsing synth score tells the audience that everywhere she goes and whoever she talks to may land her in trouble.
It’s unfortunate then that 1976 relies so heavily on this score to tell a story. There may be an underlying sense of danger and paranoia, but it seems that director Martelli believes that this will be enough. Kuppenheim gives a good enough performance, but the direction feels somewhat lacking, both from the first-time feature director and from the plot itself.
By keeping a certain sense of reality and not making the situation in Chile at that time feel overdramatised, unfortunately 1976 lacks any sense of pace or urgency. Of course, it may help to know about the history of the country before watching, but the desperation of the situation is never properly conveyed.
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