Viennale 2023 Review: THE PRACTICE Seeks Mindfulness Amid Mid-Life Restart
Martín Rejtman's newest offering, The Practice (La Práctica), contributes to the New Argentine Cinema movement in which he has been a seminal figure. Rejtman's filmmaking is distinguished by its unique blend of the absurd with understated, dry humor, capturing the subtleties of daily life and the intricacies of human behavior. This signature approach, which he refined in earlier works such as Silvia Prieto and The Magic Gloves, is adeptly employed in The Practice.
The Practice delves into the intricate journey of approaching middle age. Set in Argentina, the film centers around Gustavo, a yoga instructor portrayed by the adept Esteban Bigliardi, who also stars in the notable 2023 film, The Delinquents. Separated from his Chilean wife, Vanesa (Manuela Oyarzun), Gustavo resides temporarily with his sister Macarena (Maria Siebald) and her husband Felipe (Elvis Fuentes).
The story begins with Gustavo advising Steffi, a German yoga client, to seek out another studio, following her allegations of unequal treatment. Minor tremor disrupts a yoga session, leading to Steffi, one of Gustavo's clients, suffering a concussion under a screen stored in the studio from Gustavo's apartment. The incident leaves Steffi experiencing short-term memory loss.
Subsequently, Gustavo attends a couples' therapy session, after which his wife expresses her desire to finalize their separation through divorce. She also encourages Gustavo to independently restart his life, suggesting he move out of his sister's home. Similarly, Gustavo's mother subtly urges him to take the same course of action. Instead, Gustavo departs for a wellness retreat.
The Practice chronicles the upheaval in Gustavo's life following his separation and a utiliy hole injury that derails his professional routine. Throughout the film, the protagonist encounters an array of eccentric characters and finds himself in a series of bizarre situations. The director utilizes these elements as a backdrop to explore the absurdities of life and the quest for well-being within the context of Western society, all presented through the lens of deadpan, absurdist satire.
Rejtman's film showcases his adeptness at weaving humor into the fabric of everyday scenarios with yoga serving as both a literal and metaphorical medium to explore themes of existence, adaptability, and equilibrium. Notably, the decision to shoot outside Argentina for the first time, specifically in Chile, adds another metaphor to the narrative.
The choice signifies more than a mere change of location; it offers a subtle examination of the cultural distinctions between neighboring nations. The geographical and cultural shift symbolizes the crossing of borders in a literal and figurative sense, echoing the film's broader theme of navigating different phases of life.
The Practice bears a stylistic resemblance to the absurdist black comedies of Babis Makridis – characterized by minimalism and austerity, yet distinct in its avoidance of the latter's more sadistic elements. Employing deadpan delivery paired with carefully timed, almost slapstick humor, The Practice fundamentally presents as a humanist narrative. It incorporates a romance subplot that, while unconventional, adds a touching aspect to what is essentially a story about coming-of-middle-age.
Rejtman's distinctive auteurial voice, combined with his acute perception of life's idiosyncrasies, renders The Practice a probing exploration of mid-life existence portraying the protagonist's journey as he navigates through life's challenging positions in search of balance and comprehension.The film captures a pursuit of ephemeral mindfulness amid the seemingly chaotic order of life while dealing with personal restart.
- Martín Rejtman
- Martín Rejtman
- Esteban Bigliardi
- Mirta Busnelli
- Gabriel Cañas