You know that when you cannot get a film out of your head, it is a good one because the filmmaker has hypnotized you with his/her story. It makes you think, reflect, and question things. This is the case of the Mexican film La Región Salvaje (The Untamed) directed by Amat Escalante who is known for his previous work Heli (2013), which won the best director award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. The Untamed was awarded the Silver Lion at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival.
The film delivers social commentary on elements of Mexico that are intertwined in the film’s complex love triangle story. Alejandra (Ruth Ramos) seems to be in a decadent marriage where the kids are the only link between Ángel (Jesús Meza) and her. Through her brother Fabián (Eden Villavicencio) she encounters Verónica (Simone Bucio) who introduces her and her brother to something that they have unconsciously longed for, something that is on the edge of repulsive but tempting, and mysterious but familiar. This results in a complete turnaround of their lives.
This erotic/sci-fi/drama/horror film shows you the hypocrite, corrupt, and male chauvinistic society in which heterosexual females and homosexuals live in, and the struggle they face. However, various topics such as homosexuality and bisexuality fall short of, as some characters need to be more developed in order to understand their actual everyday conflicts. For instance, Verónica, a girl who lives in a hippie community, battles with the unimaginable, which is to suppress and forget her sexual desires that were once heard. In a far away wooden cabin, the “materialized desire” of all animals is locked inside, for which Verónica has to find a sexual partner/toy. At the hospital, she encounters Fabián and later on Alejandra, whose repressed feelings will guide them into a less selfish and inner peace journey when they confront the “materialized desire”. This also connotes the idea that women should not be sexually active just for pleasure but for reproductive reasons. The focus of the filmmaker lies on the women and their private parts as an obvious metaphor for the sexual desires, but also on the misconceptions and turning a blind-eye to homosexuality.
Furthermore, the actors’ chemistry is impressive. In this film, everything can be seen in the eyes with close-ups that reflect their emotions. Their desires are also portrayed by the fantastic, in which the viewer gains access to the protagonists’ deepest longings. Amat Escalante’s subtle manner of displaying non-verbal communication with the help of visuals is stunning, which adds suspense and mystery to The Untamed.
The commentaries on sexuality and other aspects of life in Mexico are presented through a beautiful and harmonious cinematography. The streets of Guanajuato, Mexico, come to life by the extras, the colours and, of course, the sounds. The background music complements the surreal elements of the story that accompanies the protagonists on their journey to their deepest desires. The Untamed presents a twisted and complex story that will leave you perplexed.
The Untamed reminded me of a few other films such as Possession (1981), Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Nymphomaniac: Vol. I and II (2013), and the painting “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife” (Hokusai, 1984). If one thought that all these associations combined with the local Mexican socio-cultural circumstances could not be made into a great piece of art, then one may be wrong, because this is certainly an original provocative story that is sensually frightful and captivating.
In Dutch cinemas: 15 June 2017
Original title: La Región Salvaje (Literary: The Wild Region; The Wilderness)