Four people have a lazy day hanging out in the sun at a water-filled disused quarry in the Uruguayan film In the Quarry (En el pozo). Not all of them are going to make it to the end of this increasingly knuckle-whitening thriller, the feature debut of brothers Rafael and Bernardo Antonaccio, whose command of tension and film-making technique suggests they have a bright future ahead of them.
In the words of Jean-Luc Godard all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun. The girl in this case is Alicia (Paula Silva), a smalltown escapee who’s returned to hicksville to catch up with old friends and show off her city-slick boyfriend, Bruno (Augusto Gordillo). But, as the opening scene of her making out in a car reveals, Alicia also has unfinished business with “old friend” Tincho (Rafael Beltrán), and it’s this that’s going to simmer through the rest of the movie, as Bruno first gets wind of the fact that something’s possibly still going on between Alicia and Tincho and then has the evidence of it shoved in his face.
It does not help that Tincho’s nickname is Sausage Boy. What does a name like that mean? Bruno fears the worst.
A quarry, a threeway between Alicia, Bruno and Tincho, with spare spare wheel Tola (Luis Pazos) there as an affable master of ceremonies, dispensing booze and weed, cooking up sausages on the barbie and then cutting into them with a knife which will be making a re-appearance later on.
Though points for being an asshole are shared out – Bruno is a the big city snob; Tincho is overfull of smalltown pride – the film’s sympathies are clearly more with Tincho, though only Tola comes out of all this really well, the guy who just wants everyone to have a good time and the more they don’t, the harder he tries.
Bruno the macho, Tincho the gent and Tola the trickster, together these three cover many of the bases as models of modern masculinity. As for Alicia, it’s not much of a role playing the cockteasing author of a calamity, but Silva invests it with what dignity she can.
The Antonaccios build the tension brilliantly, alternating semi-standoffs between Bruno and Tincho, with access to Alicia’s phone a particular trigger they bring into play several times, as if to say, “remember the phone with all those incriminating texts? Here it is again?” Each time Bruno gets nearer to the phone, the threat level rises.
But, with very occasional use of “third party” cameras, they also hint that there might be a threat from elsewhere. Underwater, where rusty metalwork lies in wait. Or perhaps someone is watching the group as their fun day in the sun turns into something else.
There’s a very canny use of the available light – bright, bright daylight eventually yields to shadows as the sun dips down below the lip of the quarry, a threshold dramatically as well as visually. It’s film-making on the cheap but if your main source of light is the sun, why not use it?
For what is probably (judging by production stills) a very low budget film, it’s slickly made and very well acted. Once we’re in, we’re in immersively, and little touches like Hernán González’s soundtrack mixing gently strumming guitars with angry piano bass notes add to the sense of polish.
This team of film-makers clearly know what they’re doing. And they’re ambitious. As they bring down the curtain on what’s shifted from tense to deadly, the Antonaccios play out with end credits suggesting they’d like to helm a Bond movie. Way to go.
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