Original title: Tesis sobre un homicidio
Country: Argentina-España
Direction: Hernán Goldfrid
Writers: Patricio Vega based on the novel by Diego Paszkowski
Cast: Ricardo Darín, Alberto Ammann, Arturo Puig, Calu Rivero, Fabián Arenillas, Mara Bestelli, Antonio Ugo, José Luis Mazza, Mateo Chiarino, Natalia Santiago
Cinematography: Rodrigo Pulpeiro
Edition: Pablo Barbieri
Music: Sergio Moure de Oteyza
Runtime: 105 minutes
Year: 2013

6 points

Theories on a thriller

By Mex Faliero

Thesis on a homicide is a movie made by design (nothing wrong with that), which by the particularities of the argentine cinema acquires mainstream traits: if we think about it properly, it’s one of those psychological thrillers of average level that Hollywood makes once a week, but here it is magnified because the industrial argentine cinema (we understand by industrial a system sustained in common signs and symbols that work by repetition: the cliches, the usual places) is still an imaginary collective that begins to give its first symptoms of life. Thesis on a homicide is an adaptation from a best-seller, has as frontrunner a star that assembles with his mere presence (Darín), there is a popular and little star from television (Calu Rivero) and its director is a guy with knowledge of the narrative apparatus but without an authorial trait: he’s what in the industry is called an artisan, someone who can bring to fruition a minor product. And we can think about all of this as we watch the movie because, in its cold and distant construction, unconsciously highlights all the gadgets that participate in its structure.

It is not that Thesis on a homicide is a bad film, but it is also true that a story based in the most pure mystery and that proposes the viewer to get into the psychological game of knowing who is the killer should generate more tension, chart its way with pure climate. And no, that never happens. However, the movie by Hernán Goldfrid moves forward with good ideas that are then boycotted by a rather flimsy narrative system that generates certain bipolarity in the spectator: at times it is liked, sometimes not, until it arrives to a disappointing ending, but not because it is open. Ultimately, Thesis on a homicide is a movie with layers, with overlapping levels that never get homogenized, although they feed and hinder each other, and eventually build a psychological thriller quite deflated. Let´s see…

1-One of the layers could be the discursive: it’s undoubtable that Thesis on a homicide is the adaptation from a novel, because the movie resolves nothing with images (except a virtuous sequence shot where Darín´s character destroys his apartment, and that mimics a little to The conversation or the paranoid cinema of Brian De Palma). In fact, the characters could have sat in front of the camera, recited their lines and we would have the same results. Because what the film has to say is the same as the book without a narrative mechanism that complex and amplify it: the justice as a social instrument governed by sectors of and institutionalized power, the crime as a fact defined not by the factual but the circumstantial which is pure construction, and the obsession as a tool that put in crisis the point of view over justice as over crime. Any movie begins with a series of reflections, but the staging and the performances are the ones who must achieve that the speech be less explicit and more suggestive. Every movie uses reflection as a starting point, and the movie direction and performances are the ones that make the speech less explicit and more suggested. One of the problems of Thesis on a homicide is that from direction only serves to illustrate dialogues, and except Darín, no one can delve too much in their character (at least those who have more than five minutes on screen -there are plenty wasted around-). For example, Alberto Ammann, who plays the student whom Darín become obsessed with, shows and intelligent face every time his character says something supposedly ingenious. Thereby, the movie evidences that is not only a thriller, but something deeper. And fails in the attempt.

2-Another layer is the narrative and from script. It´s curious that Goldfrid does not ever find the tone of the movie, when he previously, with Music on hold, built a romantic comedy in which there was a game of mistery with good climates. If Thesis on a homicide, wants to be a movie by design, an industrial thriller, must know that there are basics tools that cannot be left aside. Firstly, is a suspense film without suspense scenes: it’s not a simple task to achieve the proper intensity of pshychological thrillers without actors that can create deep characters. It is in this point where the movie starts to die a little. And secondly, and vital, as well as to Darín, lacks of suspects: the story moves forward over the obsession of the protagonist, a law professor who is sure that a student is the murderer of a girl found dead in the vicinity of the Law Faculty. The mystery of the film, then, is reduced to if Darín is right or not. That, without a proper construction of the conflict of the character and the suspense game, reduces the interest of the movie. To make matters worse, the end has a failed action scene during a show by Fuerza bruta.

3-We can also get into an intermediate level, between the staging and the speech, which is relegated and always in the subtext. And, I must admit, is the most interesting that Thesis on a homicide has to offer. In that off space, remains in suspense which is the relationship between the professor Jorge Bermúdez and the student Gonzalo Ruiz Cordera, what happen between him and Gonzalo´s mother, among other things. In the unsaid and the suggestion of a somewhat perverse universe, Thesis on a homicide find some shadows that provide brightness to the thriller: the best a movie of this type can do is offering a series of elements to the spectator for him to complete, and in this case, if we consider the country´s past, the issue becomes more chilling. There is when the film becomes much more interesting and embossed than the rest of the lenght.

4-And, finally, we have to say that Thesis on a homicide is a new proposal from that national subgenre which at this point are the movies with Darín. It´s curious the success of the actor and his connection with the public, because except in his comedian appearances alongside Campanella, he has specialized in building complex, dark, tortured characters, who are hard to emphatize with. And his professor follows the same path. Perhaps the lecture that we can do is that the national public (a bit from middle class) love to see those shitty characters, because they always like to recognize the shit more in the other than in oneself, something that in certain way is related with the experience of the professor Bermúdez: his obsession is a prejudice that justifies his miseries. God knows if this is so, but playing the game of theorizing, like the protagonist of the film, Thesis on a homicide offers elements both to enjoy and to suffer it. It´s a matter of focusing in the details and letting go.