This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
"La Cienaga" is a dank, humid meditation on rotting families. By its end we are glad to see the last of most of its characters, but we will not quickly forget them. The film opens in a crumbling vacation home on a rainy plateau in northern Argentina, and I suspect, although I am not sure, that it expresses the director's feelings about the current downturn in the country's fortunes. These are people who once were rich and now squat in the ruins of their own lives.
The title translates as "the swamp." Not too hard to spot the symbolism. Thunder rumbles unceasingly on the soundtrack. It rains and rains. In every room, circulating fans look back and forth for relief from the heat. The children find something they are good for: When you put your mouth right in front of the whirling blades and talk, your words get chopped up. Neat. I had forgotten that.
The opening shots show the mottled, exhausted bodies of the slack characters. They've flung themselves on deck chairs next to a stagnant pool. They drink. A woman stands up to carry some wine glasses, slips on the mossy surface, falls and badly cuts herself. The others do not even look up. She lies in her own blood until her children raise the alarm and take her to a hospital. An alcoholic, she does not seem much interested in what has happened.
The name of the vacation home is La Mandragora ("the mandrake")--"a poisonous plant," the Concise Oxford explains, "with emetic and narcotic properties." It is said to shriek when it is plucked. Charming. The mother is named Mecha (Graciela Borges) and her husband is Gregorio (Martin Adejmian). They have four teenage children.