Camera d’Or winner Las Acacias (2011), directed by Argentinian filmmaker Pablo Giorgelli and starring Germán de Silva and Hebe Duarte, is a potent film of subtlety, silence and charm. This is a road movie with a difference following single mother Jancita (Duarte) and baby Anahí (Nayra Calle Mamani) as they travel to Buenos Aires to visit Jancita’s cousin. This simple premise is treated with deft skill and tenderness as it explores the themes of isolation, loss and loneliness.
The first thirty minutes of the film are in silence; a daunting prospect for many a cinema viewer, and it should be stated that the film does get of to a slow start. Yet as you continue to watch you soon realise that you will be richly rewarded for your patience. The performances from De Silvaand and Duarte are incredible, both possessing the ability to use subtle gestures, the curl of lips, raising of eyebrows or even a yawn to express more than five minutes of explanatory dialogue ever could.
Giorgelli’s use of gentle comedy also fits perfectly into the melancholic tone of the piece. This is particularly true of moments between Rubén (De Silvaand) and the young child. De Silvaand’s touching performance resonates beyond the moment, whilst the use of silence allows the perfect time to absorb the issues of the film. Las Acacias is tremendously well crafted and could have easily become tiresome and off-kilter, but in the hands of Giorgelli it becomes something quite magical.
This is a film of slowburning drama, devoid of the clumsy devices employed by many a mainstream romance where grand gestures are used to invoke sympathy for the audience. Essentially, Las Acacias speaks quietly but powerfully, the perfect argument for the universal language of cinema. Dialogue is very much a secondary issue – it is the performances and intelligent camera work that tell the story. This is a film that embraces humanity, understands it and expresses it perfectly.