White Elephant (2013)
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Movie InfoIn Villa Virgen, the poverty-stricken and dangerous slum in Buenos Aires, two deeply respected Catholic priests take very different paths in their struggle against violence, corruption and injustice.
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Critic Reviews for White Elephant
'White Elephant' throws us into the fray of an urban slum without in any way demonising or romanticising the theatre within which Trapero's meandering story unfolds.
[Trapero is] as thoughtful and perceptive a filmmaker as ever, using tools appropriate to the goal of drawing attention to systemic social ills.
Michael Nyman's sweepingly majestic score lends an epic dimension, which feels right alongside the straight-forward passion depicted by an evenly balanced, top-drawer cast.
Produced on a grand scale, this powerhouse of a movie recounts a true story with skill and artistry, highlighting an extremely volatile situation and the brave people who put themselves in the middle of it.
The drama is intense but fractured as Trapero shows how millions of poverty-stricken people live in his home country, and how a few brave people attempt to do something about it.
[A] potent drama about the lawless slums of Buenos Aires - it feels like The Mission with all exoticism firmly excised.
The film tries to do too much and its power is on a sliding scale downward, but at times it is ultra-vivid.
A wellconstructed, genuinely thrilling drama about spiritual endurance and social commitment.
There's a lot to think about - sacrifice, faith, poverty and much more - but it all feels too crammed into its running time, and is delivered in an uninspiring fashion.
Writer/director Trapero arguably crams too much into the film's running time, but potent turns and Michael Nyman's yearning score are among the compensations.
Trapero's film examines the real cost of a life of faith - the servanthood and the sacrifice - and is itself a long dark night of the soul, offering much to contemplate.
Audience Reviews for White Elephant
Julian (Darin) and Nicolas (Renier) are two priests who, along with social worker Luciana (Gusman), work tirelessly to improve the lives of the inhabitants of an over-crowded Buenos Aires slum. With two rival gangs controlling the slum and the Catholic hierarchy showing more interest in political bureaucracy than helping the poor, Julian begins to doubt there is any point to his work. Meanwhile, Nicolas and Luciana are conducting a sexual affair in secret.
A couple of years ago, Argentine cinema came to prominence with the Oscar-winning 'The Secret in Their Eyes', a film which dazzled viewers with some of the most outrageous camera trickery ever seen on screen. There's obviously something in the waters of the River Plate that makes film-makers reinvent camera movement as 'White Elephant' also features a raft of "how the hell did they pull that off?" camera tricks. Trapero seems to defy gravity with tracking shots that are baffling in their intricacy. From a technical perspective, his film is a must-see for students of film-making. Those expecting an engaging drama with well written characters will have to look elsewhere.
Trapero's camera glides continuously through his unique slum setting, but never stops to let us get acquainted with any of its inhabitants. The slum-dwellers have no more depth than those we saw mowed down in 'Dredd' or 'The Raid'. The same goes for the two central priest characters. The elder priest, Julian's existential crisis is only touched on, while Nicolas leaves us with the frustratingly unanswered question of why a handsome young Northern European found himself in the priesthood. The subplot of his romance with Luciana is a well worn cliche where priesthood dramas are concerned. The film opens with the two priests escaping a massacre in a Latin American jungle but we never learn exactly what their involvement was here.
It seems strange that Trapero would make a film in this setting as it's one he seems to have little interest in. Focusing so much on dazzling camerawork, as he does, creates the impression he's using 'White Elephant' as little more that a "come and get me" plea to Hollywood.
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