Spend a few years in prison or a lifetime working? That's the dilemma facing two unassuming bank clerks in Argentine director Rodrigo Moreno's new film Los delincuentes (“The Delinquents”), which premiered Thursday at Cannes.
Morán, an everyday worker, has it clear in his mind: much better to hatch a plan and steal a sum of money equivalent to his salary for 25 years, then be able to enjoy life after a brief stint in jail, than to clock in every single day at his company until he retires.
The story, freely inspired by the 1949 crime film Apenas un delincuente, allows Moreno to return to one of his favourite themes: the dilemma between work and a freer, more leisurely life.
In 2002’s El descanso, which he co-directed, a group decides to occupy an abandoned hotel in order not to work for the rest of their lives. And in 2006’s El custodio, Moreno dealt with the pressures of work. The director’s 2014 movie Réimon was about a domestic worker.
While in the original 1949 film, the protagonist aspires to become a millionaire with his loot, in his latest creation, Moreno decided that "his" thieves would commit a "modest robbery," only taking what they need to stop working and live properly.
The viewer can empathise with the philosophy of these characters, realising that "our life is reduced to work," the 50-year-old filmmaker said in an interview.
Los delincuentes, which lasts just over three hours, switches locations between Buenos Aires and a mountainous area in the province of Córdoba, in the centre of Argentina. The urban area represents the crushing monotony of work, almost resembling a prison, and the scenes set in more natural outdoor settings are deliberately "liberating," said Moreno.
To talk about the "free life," he and the actors needed to live it and film it, explains the director, justifying the lengthy duration of the film.
"I film the work, I film the routine, I film the pressure that routine puts on a person, but at the same time I have to film the uncertainty of the free life, the uncertain life, the life that you don't know where it's going to take you," he said.
With a complex structure, the film is divided into large sections and features flashbacks, which tell the story in an symmetrical way. This fragmentation, with time jumps between scenes, is inspired in part by the films of US director Quentin Tarantino, said Moreno.
Los delincuentes "is competing in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes, the festival’s second-most important competition, which is dedicated to new talents. It’s an alternative way of participating in the event for the first time.
Moreno said when promoting his first film, El custodio, more than 15 years ago, he received a call from the festival’s general delegate, Thierry Frémaux, to screen his feature in the same category. The film’s German producers and distributors, however, insisted that they would only allow the film to compete for the Palme d'Or, Cannes’ top prize. It didn’t work out and the feature was finally presented at the Berlinale, where it won an award.
Since then, the German festival has played host to several of his creations, including Un mundo misterioso (2011).
This time, with Los delincuentes, Moreno is competing directly in one of the French festival’s most prestigious categories. This, explains the director, is what "second chances" look like.
by Esther Sánchez, AFP