Director: Lukas Valenta Rinner
Screenplay: Ana Godoy, Ariel Gurevich, Martín Shanly and Lukas Valenta Rinner
Cast: Iride Mockert as Belen, Ivanna Colona Olsen as Paola, Mariano Sayavedra as Garita, Pablo Seijo as Arquitecto, Martín Shanly as Juan Cruz, Andrea Strenitz as Diana
Synopsis: Belen (Iride Mockert), a housemaid for a rich suburbia family, peaks into a woodland area nearby cordoned off by an electric fence. A New Age nudist colony live there, and after her initial hesitation, she joins them finding herself at peace finally. As building pressure against them from the suburbanites grows however, the results when triggered to a breaking point become drastic.
Whatever my opinion of A Decent Woman, I will argue this film's style is more rewarding than the dirge of sub-realistic art cinema. It is a style clearly indebted to the likes of Yorgos Lanthimos and Ulrich Seidl, one that has become a style shared over films regardless of their country of origins, and as the "slow cinema" that became popular in the 2000s was it is becoming more common as a shared aesthetic style over multiple films. It is subjective at times and even pretentious to divide these styles when for the popular they may look entirely the same; but a factor, especially for the Lanthimos films, to help distinct them is that they rely on tableau shots with minimal camera movement and have a tendency for absurdity mixed with transgression. At least as a result you do not get the permanent close-ups fund in other films but with a work like A Decent Woman a sense of environment to build from with the numerous long shots, the camera never shaking and the sense of colour to the images presence even when they are still naturalistic. At least with these films there is a sense of the unpredictable at hand, far from simplistic nihilism but a style even when it has been bleak and cynical infused with surreal humour.
Obviously now there are multiple films across countries and languages with this style, there is a danger of nameless copycats existing, where regardless of their origins there is no sense of distinction to raise themselves from the others imitating the likes of Lanthimos. A Decent Woman struggles against this whilst having moments of unique personality. It is helped by its setting, Argentinean woodland having a sense of being an actual paradise, appropriate for nudists to have their own Eden. It is to an advantage for the materialistic modern culture against the hippies. Rinner does simplify the suburbanites, merely some glimmers of their tensions surrounding the one family Belen works for, which does undercut how interesting the nudists are themselves. They are stereotypical themselves, a free love community who sit around in nude circles in the grass talking of various forms of spiritual energy or expressing their emotions honestly, but they are harmless to the outside world. Any community where you can see a vinyl copy of Lizard by King Crimson in someone's hut are not exactly corrupting influences on the suburban environment. Anything sexual is covered by an isolated environment, and with only the improvised pest control of parrots being a potential issue for their neighbours with the image of nudists with rifles. In fact their animal orgy in the centre of the story, painting themselves up as various animals of the wild with the cast acting as them, is the best part of the film as it feels idiosyncratic to this director. A scene with shots of the various cast members, of all shapes and ages, painted as animals which emphasises how the film goes beyond the immediate shock of the constant nudity to an actual oneness to these characters to the environment unclothed.
The problem with A Decent Woman, when the suburbanites complain about the nudists minding their own business and an incident takes place that pushes people to the edge, is that it takes a simplistic turn. One with an ethical issue for a viewer as the hippies have been painted with a sympathetic brush before. For three quarters they are pacifists only to turn violent after an event which does not feel like a catalyst but a horrible accident. It is meant to be a metaphor for a cultural clash between these New Age or alternative lifestyles and an imposing, restrictive normalcy, but as you see nudists with guns clash on a golf course with armed police the message has been very simplistic beforehand, too simplistic. Also too sadistic in how it gleefully embraces the nude hippies getting bloodthirsty without the consequences and morbid humour of Yorgos Lanthimos. His characters, no matter how much they could act in despicable ways, are still compelling as complex figures. Here with A Decent Woman you see how more has to be done with such a style, the absurdity meant to mean more.
Abstract Spectrum: Weird
Abstract Rating (High/Medium/Low/None): None
Good moments are found in A Decent Woman, which show a lot of potential in Lukas Valenta Rinner as a director. He needs to find more of his own style however.