White Elephant (Elefante blanco, Argentina-Spain-France, 2012)

The heart of a heartless world

The heart of a heartless world

Films that have priests as protagonists are not ones I usually enjoy. I cannot make that ‘leap of faith’ where religion is concerned however co-writer director Pablo Trapero is more interested in social injustice than less worldly matters. His Carancho (Argentina-Chile-France-S.Korea, 2010) focused on an ‘ambulance chaser’ lawyer, played by Ricardo Darin, also the lead protagonist in White Elephant, and the practice of feigning traffic accident injury (‘feigning’ doesn’t quite cover it: sledgehammers and knees feature…).  Here Fr. Julian is trying to turn a derelict hospital (the ‘white elephant’) into a living space for the poor.

I particularly liked Trapero’s use of steadicam, as it weaves through the ghetto, following the protagonists, as it roots the place in reality: this isn’t a film set. The performances, too, are excellent; featuring also, like Carancho, Martina Guzman as a social worker trying to get the local authorities to help.

The Sight & Sound reviewer complains the film is too melodramatic (May 2013) and it’s disappointing to still see critics using melodrama as a term of abuse. However, I also find the climax contrived, even by melodrama’s standards. However, a film that has the poor in its heart can be forgiven as most cinema merely uses them as ‘extras’.

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One Response

  1. […] boundaries of ‘decent’ behaviour. Particularly good is Ricardo Darín (also seen in The White Elephant) as the explosive expert who cracks when his car is towed away despite being legally parked; […]

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