La Maldad (Evilness) – Berlinale 65 Forum
Mexico’s most troubled political period is blended with traces of poetry and Carlos Reygadas’ essence, when betrayal surpasses love in Joshua Gil’s debut feature film.
After a career working mainly as cinematographer, Joshua Gil directs his debut feature film entitled La Maldad (Evilness). Mexican director has in the past collaborated with filmmakers like Carlos Reygadas, Patricio Guzmán and the Quay Brothers. La Maldad has its world premiere at the 65th Berlin Film Festival in the Forum section.
Rafael (Rafael Gil Morán) and Raymundo (Raymundo Delgado Muñoz) are two elder peasants who have been friends for the past decades. Rafael is a poet, musician, director and has also written a screenplay of the story of his life. His future film will be a musical of personal emotional revenge, which he already considers as the best film ever. Raymundo is quite depressed because he is ill and he knows that he will die soon, for that reason he considers to commit suicide. He seeks for support to his best friend. Unfortunately Rafael will have to abandon and betray his friend in this most difficult time of his life in order to go to the city to seek for financial support for his film. Everything happens as Mexico goes through a deep political catharsis.
La Maldad is a film that works more aesthetically and less narratively. This becomes quite clear even from the introductory 10 minutes long shot of some burning fields. The viewer understands immediately that this is not a typical drama. Gil is seeking to combine all the elements that he considers necessary to his storytelling. Poetry, songs, cancer, love, politics are the main issues where his film expands, like life itself. The whole procedure touches the verges of experimentalism while Gil is trying to keep his observatory penetrating shots as close as possible to the heroes in order to explore the impact of their stories. That striking balance between realism and dream, documentary and fantasy will bear some obvious similarities to Carlos Reygadas’ characterizing techniques but La Maldad doesn’t quite reach his perfection.
According to director’s statement, his project started almost eight years before. It was shot under some terrible circumstances due to budget limitations and Rafael Gil Morán’s terminal illness. Everything had to be combined and all the elements had to be present accurately, a procedure that is quite difficult and highly demanding. Sometimes poetry surpasses realism. Thanks to Cesar Salgado’s mesmerizing cinematography the dream-like scenes challenge the viewer to decide what actually happens and what not. Even if this works pretty good there are moments where the result appear a bit unbalanced. The cinéma vérité scenes are followed by journeys through fog and fire, while the predominant political element truly appears by the end of the film as an actual manifestation.
La Maldad is an interesting and quite appealing film that despite its disadvantages could work as a study of characters and of real impromptus situations. There is no doubt that Joshua Gil has some clear and appealing ideas that could be depicted even better. What truly stands out is the feeling that the viewer will receive after the screening and especially if he’s afraid of being haunted by his own inner hidden evilness.