Starring: Guillermo Francella, Peter Lanzini, Lili Popovich
At the end of the Falklands war, Arquímedes Puccio (Francella), the patriarch of his middle class Argentine family loses his job in the state intelligence services. To maintain his family’s middle-class status, Arquímedes and the other family members kidnap wealthy individuals and though the ransom is paid, kill their hostages anyway, while being offered protection from his contacts within the establishment. While all the other members of the family silently play their part, the eldest son and star rugby player, Alejandro (Lanzani) often questions what they are doing. However, with his contacts within the Government telling Arquímedes to lie low, he risks destroying everything his family has fought for and tearing the entire family apart if he continues.
The synopsis that I have just written, despite being quite lengthy, does not quite sum up The Clan, and this serves as both a credit and a criticism to it as a film. It is a compelling, wonderfully put together and incredibly acted film, but with so much going on within its 108-minute plot it is at times a very hard film to follow, and therefore engage with at the start. I have no idea if there is a longer version that exists, but from watching the 108-minute-long version it feels like this film would have been better if given more time to develop its abundance of characters and subplots, as so much happens within the narrative.
However, this criticism should be taken as a complement to director Pablo Trapero as his film (and of course the true story that it is based on) is very compelling and therefore the audience automatically wants to know more about these characters and their backstories, especially Arquímedes Puccio.
However, the condensed nature of the narrative means that the character of Arquímedes Puccio remains in some ways an enigma, and therefore more engaging. One of the main problems with biopics with real characters is that they just tell the story, but The Clan contains plenty of substance, and is also a deeply engrossing and often very unnerving film that is directed with assured confidence by Pablo Trapero.
With limited financial resources at his disposal Trapero proves that he is very much making the film he wants to, with deeply effective camerawork such as tight close-ups on characters and long takes with a very static camera, especially of the film’s key set pieces such as when the family abduct their hostages. These are particularly well put together scenes that are undoubtedly deeply engaging, and the whole film is directed with assured visual swagger by Trapero.
Another key factor as to why The Clan is such captivating entertainment are the performances; Guillermo Francella is exceptional as Arquímedes, providing an unnerving but deeply charismatic screen presence with his piercing blue eyes.
As the plot develops and the various characters it includes are introduced, as well as the broader plot strands of the state of Argentine society at the time, there are continuous suggestions that if given the time or budget The Clan could have been a two and a half hour epic, but what we do have is a deeply engaging and very well put together crime drama of am almost quite unsettling true story. However, throughout I just wanted to know more and the film to sometimes just take its time, which was at times a little frustrating.
The main emotional lynchpin of the narrative is the focus on the eldest son Alejandro and his obvious hatred of being involved with the crimes his family commits. This does prove to be an effective tool at making The Clan an engaging crime drama as we do genuinely care about and feel sorry for Alejandro, as his intentions are pure. However, again if the film were given longer to develop characters this could have been even more effective, and the eventual revelations that Alejandro discovers could have been even more devastating. However, they still are very effective and deeply powerful moments in what is a masterfully told (albeit slightly rushed) crime drama.
An engaging crime drama made with assured swagger and confidence; the fact that The Clan is a true story makes it more shocking, but a longer running time would have certainly allowed for a narrative with so much happening to develop slower and could have potentially been more effective and memorable.