Review: Spanish Noir Thriller ‘Marshland’

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We take a look at the latest addition of Euro Noir that puts Spain’s Deep South on the crime scene.

Nordic Noir continues to present a profoundly bleak and atmospheric milieu to the heinous crimes sweeping through the Scandinavian streets in The Bridge. Recently, the detective series Witnesses also gave us breath-taking views from the French countryside. Now, with Marshland, audiences will be drawn into the suspense of an unknown killer stalking the wetlands of rural Spain in this stylish, incendiary thriller directed by Alberto Rodríguez (Unit 7, 2012).

Read our interview with director Alberto Rodríguez here

Instantly, we are captivated by the suspenseful music and aerial shots of the Andalucía Marshland: you take in the vast exquisite landscape and natural beauty which resembles a picturesque, magnified scope of the visceral human body. These remarkable sights offer a sense of omniscience from Pepe Domínguez del Olmo’s art direction and cinematography by Alex Catalán. The ominous score from composer Julio de la Rosa accompanies the engaging opening credit sequence – as well as throughout – with an entrancing, upbeat tone. With such an arrestingly visual and aural flair, we are transported into a glossy retrospective realm of Euro Noir as the 1980s Spanish drama unfolds…

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Set during the nation’s upheaval in the wake of Franco’s death, the country is torn by conflicting ideologies of the past fascist regime, moving forward to a modern democracy. This social-historical context adds another striking layer to the film in the narrative. Co-written by director Rodríguez and Rafael Cobos, we follow a character-driven plot as detectives Juan (Javier Gutiérrez) and Pedro (Raúl Arévalo) lead the investigation in Marshland.

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When teenage sisters Estrella and Carmen are reported missing, Juan and Pedro are tasked to take over from the Guardia Civil. The matter is not taken seriously until their tortured, mutilated bodies are discovered with the help of a local psychic. A pattern emerges as previous victims linked to the killer come to the detective’s attention, as well as the threat of a new target. There appears to be a common desire from young women to escape and get away from the town; a yearning for a better life. But is this desire a reflection of the revolutionary period of time or the product of fear from something far more sinister going on?

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Secrets soon rise to the surface from the murky depths and Pedro discovers more to Juan than meets the eye. In keeping with the troubled detectives of Noir, we meet the recently partnered investigators from different backgrounds who must learn to work together. Juan is a distinguished cop who has no qualms in drinking on duty or resorting to brute force to get the answers he needs whilst Pedro is a younger, inexperienced cop whose contemporary political views cause friction in the dawn of the “new country”.

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The unstable time in Spanish history is also highlighted by scrawled messages punctuating the story; from protestors demanding “Fair Wages” to “Long live Franco. Victory was ours and always will be”. The echoes from the past provide an engagingly raw backdrop, giving Marshland an alternative cultural edge in a new chapter of Euro Noir.

Find out the mystery of Marshland in UK cinemas on 7th August 2015