La Caja: a Lorenzo Vigas Film Premiere’s at 78th Venice Film Festival
Written by: Staff
Venezuelan filmmaker Lorenzo Vigas returns to the 78th Venice International Film Festival with La Caja, a tale of loss and hope set amidst the backdrop of the struggles of Mexico’s migrant workers. Narratively cohesive and supremely acted, La Caja captures the cultural zeitgeist of Mexico’s oppressed labour class really well, resulting in considerable critical praise showered on Vigas at the film’s unveiling at Venice.
The two leads Hatzín Navarrete and Hernán Mendoza portray conflicted characters and it is their astute performances that successfully sell the story. Navarrete’s character stumbles upon Mendoza’s corrupt headhunter during the search for his deceased father and the two hit it off after some initial friction. With the child in search of a father figure, Mendoza’s character comes to the child’s rescue in more ways than one. The mutual acquaintance soon becomes a battle of egos between the straightforward and honest Navarrete and the dishonest Mendoza as their reluctant friendship is tested in more ways than one.
The cinematography is as good as the acting, telling a story of its own. The teal hues paint a sense of desolation and hopelessness of the Mexican landscape. When Navarette stumbles upon rows and rows of cheap labour working to the death in a textile farm, it is clear that the story has hit its lowest point thematically. For Navarette, who has lost his father, this is not shocking. Rather, the film paints his pain and the collective pain of the poor working class with the same brush, noting that if you are part of the poor, the odds are stacked heavily against you.
The sound mixing is another aspect of the film that works to its benefit. Vigas uses the auditory medium to amplify the scenery, enabling the audience to get into the shoes of the characters. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the opening sequence where the thuds of kicking down a door are ominously transformed into heavy metal clanking together in a factory. In addition, verbal exposition is kept to a minimum with Vigas choosing to convey information and emotions through the visual medium alone. This lends a sense of poignancy to the picture that makes its already deep themes even more haunting and chilling.
Part mesmerizing character drama and part a cry to attention towards horrific labour practices in Latin America, La Caja can be distilled down to two things. One is the absolutely phenomenal performance of Hatzín Navarrete and the other is the desolate and hopeless landscape that the film conjures up. Vigas’s latest outing, which received a fantastic response at Venice, is thus both moving and meaningful as he utilizes strong performances to tell this deeply personal story of a child wandering aimlessly after the untimely demise of his father.
The Venice International Film Festival is the oldest film festival in the world and one of the most prestigious. The Festival was organised for the first time in 1932, under the auspices of the President of the Biennale, Count Giuseppe Volpi di Misurata, the sculptor Antonio Maraini, and Luciano De Feo and obtained a great popularity, so as to become an annual event from 1935 onwards. The Venice Film Festival is today a prestigious event that presents every year a selection of world-class films, bringing some of the most successful directors and actors of our time on the red carpet at Lido di Venezia, continuing the tradition that adds the glamour charm that always marked the Festival to a high artistic value program.