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OUR LADY OF THE ASSASSINS

SYNOPSIS:
World weary writer Fernando (Germán Jaramillo) returns to his Medellin home after 30 years, expecting to die. Medellin has changed a great deal – for the worse. His melancholy is disturbed by love when he is introduced to Alexis (Anderson Ballesteros), a tough kid, last survivor of a street gang. Alexis carries a gun like most of his fellows, and Fernando almost gets accustomed to it as their relationship deepens. Death is a constant companion in Medellin, and when it comes to visit, Fernando is devastated. His grief is not lessened when he meets Wilmar (Juan David Restrepo), another boy just like Alexis – perhaps his reincarnation. But Wilmar has a terrible secret.

Provocative, melancholy and unforgettably disturbing, Our Lady of the Assassins is a tour de force for director Barbet Schroeder, who returns to his Colombian roots, where as an impressionable young boy he witnessed a beheading during political unrest. His first foreign language film for sixteen years, Schroeder's films have always been controversial, none more so than Reversal of Fortune, which rewarded Jeremy Irons with an Academy Award. What Schroeder has done so effectively, is juxtaposition love and longing beside killing and hatred. The violence is shocking, while the mood is almost subdued. Lively and exquisite music expressing the rhythms of South America contrasts the streets full of violence, where killing takes place as casually as sex. Children are exposed to bloodied violent acts as part of their everyday fare; what a twisted world it is to hear an innocent child being matter of fact about the brutal surroundings. We sense Fernando's torment, and the scenes on the streets are far from the candlelit serenity of the churches, which he visits religiously. Does he find the solace he seeks? Life is far too complex for simple answers, and not all the questions are answered. We do not know, for example why Fernando says he has come home to die. Perhaps it doesn't matter. But we understand his philosophy – people should bear their own crosses and that killing them is doing them a favour. Performances are outstanding with Germán Jaramillo compelling as Fernando. We clearly get a sense of the culture, the life on the streets and the everyday life/death events that are tragically commonplace. Fascinating but painfully chilling, Our Lady of the Assassins is engrossing cinema as it immerses us in a devastating world where drugs and bullets explode like the fireworks in the dark Medellin sky that signal a successful cocaine shipment to the US.
Louise Keller

Always edgy and often dealing with dangerous subject matter – Reversal of Fortune, Barfly, Single White Female to name three I really like - Barbet Schroeder is a filmmaker after my own heart. He always has something to say, and it’s always about the human condition. It’s rarely simple and often confronting, full of pain and full of sad, dry questions. The answers may not even exist, he seems sometimes to suggest. In Our Lady of the Assassins, Barbet also seems to be projecting himself into the centre of the story as a writer returned to Medellin, a town of casual killing, ingrained vendettas and a hapless populace weary of it and spiritually crippled by it. The real writer may be noted author Fernando Vallejo, but Schroeder is there too, at least in personal spirit. It’s a work that contains a distant echo of Death in Venice, but that’s more superficial than profound. In its deepest heart, this film is a sad condemnation of the people who inhabit the world it portrays, and by implication, the larger population of earth. Germán Jaramillo is outstanding as the melancholy observer, whose past is filled with so much he is ready to die, back home in Medellin, home of Colombian cocaine – and teenage boys who dream of owning mini-Uzi machine guns, like their enemies. It’s changed all right, since his youth, and not for the better. Although revenge-driven, strangely dispassionate violence is a daily occurrence – without the interference of the police. But what attracts Schroeder to tell the story is the effect such a life has on various people. And on those who, like us, are shown a glimpse of this reality at a dramatised and safe distance. It makes you think. It’s not without humour, but the tone you’ll remember is melancholy.
Andrew L. Urban

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CRITICAL COUNT
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Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

OUR LADY OF THE ASSASSINS (MA)
Virgen de los sicarios, La
(Colombia/France/Spain)

CAST: Germán Jaramillo, Anderson Ballesteros, Juan David Restrepo, Manuel Busquets

DIRECTOR: Barbet Schroeder

PRODUCER: Margaret Ménégoz, Jaime Osorio Gómez, Barbet Schroeder

SCRIPT: Fernando Vallejo

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rodrigo Lalinde

EDITOR: Elsa Vásquez

MUSIC: Jorge Arriagada

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mónica Marulanda

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: Sydney: October 4, 2001; Melbourne: October 11, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Home Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: June 21, 2002







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