Film Review: Chile '76 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, September 27th, 2023  

Chile ‘76

Director: Manuela Martelli

May 01, 2023 Web Exclusive
Bookmark and Share

Manuela Martelli’s debut feature, Chile ’76, is a searing, slow-burning political thriller about a woman taking risks to discover what she stands for.

Set in 1976, three years after the Chilean coup d’état, the film centers around Carmen (Aline Küppenheim), a well-to-do, conservative woman who heads to her beach house to celebrate winter vacation with her family. When she arrives, she is greeted by Father Sanchez (Hugo Medina), a priest and close friend who asks her to hide and take care of Elias (Nicolás Sepúlveda), a young criminal who was critically shot. While initially assisting him causes complications, as Carmen must find ways of obtaining prescription medicine and sneak out to take care of him without looking too suspicious, she quickly finds it a solace from her daily life.

Things quickly complicate when she learns the real reason why Elias is hiding: he is part of a network of revolutionaries positioned against the authoritarian government. To her surprise, Carmen decides to help Elias stay connected to his compatriots while he is injured, taking her on journeys far and wide. As she becomes more engrossed in this task, she begins to become paranoid of everything and everyone around her and is constantly forced to reconcile with the potentially deadly consequences associated with her actions.

Chile ’76 is a film about both personal and national identity. Yes, the story does not shy away from exploring just how deadly and horrifying Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship was, using chilling, short scenes interspersed throughout the narrative to do so. But, Martelli smartly funnels the entire story through Carmen’s perspective, never abandoning the character to show what Chilean life is like outside of her sphere. As such, the film is not so much about national life in Chile as it is about one woman’s slow realization of how horrifying and unsafe her country has become, not only for political opponents, but for everyone.

Given that the film is somewhat of a character study, it is incredibly slow-burning. In its opening act, the film takes its time to show the various activities that Carmen fills her days with, juxtaposing her calm life with the unrest of the country around her. Establishing her character in this manner helps sell her extremely gradual transition into not necessarily fighting for, but being part of, the opposition. As the film goes on, the story’s stakes and tension rise in a smooth and controlled manner, making each scene feel almost threatening in its deliberate slowness, as if anything could happen at any second. Martelli’s decision to shoot her characters within vast, empty spaces or to rely on long stretches of no dialogue or absolute silence help make the film even more intense. The film’s second half is an expertly crafted look at the power of paranoia, showing how the character, and audience, must second-guess every line of dialogue and action around them.

Author rating: 7/10

Rate this


Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.