Edinburgh Film Fest Report: Ants in the Mouth (Hormigas en la boca) Review
The Edinburgh Film Festival is underway and once again our friend Richard Brunton at Filmstalker has offered to share his coverage of the event with us here at ScreenAnarchy. We won't be reprinting all of his coverage though, not by a long shot, so get on over there for more ...
Ants in the Mouth was sold more on the gangster side of the film than anything else, and that's rather unfortunate for there's a lot more on offer here than just that. This is a film noir pulled towards modern day with a solid script and a setting in 1950's Cuba, and it's cinematic from the outset.
The opening is wonderfully filmed with some extremely well composed shots which chronicle the beginnings of the journey of our main character from Spain to Cuba. This continues through the film with the cinematography very high on the agenda and alongside the lighting, the excellent costumes and the superb locations, the film delivers high visually.
The music is also very good, and provides great accompaniment to the fifties Cuban feel. You do forget that this is set in the fifties and your concentration falls more on the story than the period, I personally view this as a sign that the story is doing a great job, but there's also a little negativity here because there is such great work done to transport you to this era I do wish I'd paid it a little more attention.
It is a strong thriller with a great film noir feel to it, although the main character has a little of the old Hitchcock anti-hero about him, he's not much of a gangster although he does refer to his past deeds and what he's capable of, we don't really see much of this. He's quite reminiscent of Cary Grant in North by Northwest where he gets caught up in events that move faster and faster around him, making wrong decisions and not matching up to the protagonists around him.
There is a desire to see the main character do something stronger than he does, for instance to show this gangster side and come out all guns blazing to take them down one by one. Yet you feel that if this desire was pampered too the film would become a lot less whole than it already is.
The acting is as good as the visuals, from all the main characters, particularly Jorge Perugorría who plays the Senator, who is strong, menacing and yet extremely frustrated at the events around him. Eduard Fernández and Ariadna Gil also provide great performances which draw you into the story so easily. I found myself totally forgetting it was a foreign film, and there was once scene where I realised I wasn't looking at some of the subtitles and just concentrating on how they played off each other.
There's a nice injection of humour to contrast some of the stronger scenes, which appear only occasionally, the violence here has really been tempered down to exist in your imagination. There are a few moments for relaxing and having a small chuckle, but for the most part this thriller is very effective at revisiting the noir style and bringing it to a cinematic setting.
The ending, strangely considering the number of films I've already said this about at this years Festival, seems slightly flat and doesn't deliver as much as I had hoped. Perhaps this is once again down to the desire for the character to do more and get more involved in the action, but it's not necessary in a film such as this. There's a completeness to it, and it finishes the threads well for a noir, with a feeling of this is how Casablanca would really have ended.
Yet I was left with a feeling that there was much left unexplored. We had heard so much about the Senator and yet seen so little of his darker side, this was also true of Martín himself. Although the dynamics between Julia and the two male leads works well, their characters feel slightly flatter and perhaps could have done with more exploration.
However, this is still another good film to see in this years Festival. It has great cinematography, lighting, acting, locations, costumes, and a good modernised noir story.
Review by Richard Brunton