The Untamed

The Untamed poster

The Untamed movie poster (La región salvaje)

For his 4th feature, acclaimed Mexican director Amat Escalante (Heli, Los Bastardos) delivers his most daring film to date, creating a complex but flawed work blending Mexican and European arthouse influences.

Set in Guanajuato, Mexico, The Untamed (La Region Salvage) focuses on 3 characters, Alejandra (Ruth Ramos), her husband Angel  (Jesus Meza) , her brother Fabian (Eden Villavicencio), as well as a drifter, Veronica (Simone Bucio) who will introduce them to a mysterious creature with unrivaled sexual powers.

Before stepping into the woods for its first secretive carnal encounter, which happens about halfway, The Untamed looks like a sociocultural drama taking on conservative catholic values. Using Angel as a pivotal character, it portrays the hypocrisy of Mexico’s macho society, Alejandra’s chauvinist husband having an affair with her openly gay brother. Once the secret is out, Angel becomes a castaway, being even rejected by his parents. Emphasizing the superficiality of Mexican machismo, the movie hints that Mexican men aren’t even able to satisfy their women, hence the opening sequence showing Alejandra masturbating in the shower. Talking about this, this is the third movie I’ve watched in just a few days featuring a female masturbation scene – all 3 movies being shown on the festival circuit – and I’m starting to wonder if young male filmmakers are not using their work to materialize their own fantasies onscreen.

Once we meet the creature, The Untamed then bascules into fantasy, taking a darker and more sensual turn. While this is undoubtedly what makes this movie’s originality, this also where Mr. Escalante abandons his gritty filmmaker signature to pay homage to other influent filmmakers or just borrow from them – and to this day I’m still not sure which one it is.  With its mix of sexuality and mysticism, Mr. Escalante seems to step into Carlos Reygadas’ territory (Post Tenebras, Battle in Heaven) , Mr. Reygadas being also the director who helped him launch his career.  But what probably bothers me the most is that while The Untamed might look like an innovative piece of Mexican cinema, its second part is highly reminiscent of Lars Von Trier’s AntiChrist – coincidentally or not Veronica looks like a Mexican Charlotte Gainsbourg – and more importantly to Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession.

Mr. Escalante might be a better director than screenwriter – he co-wrote this one – and I particularly enjoyed the way he filmed the sex scenes with the creature, enveloping them in a mysterious sensuality that is neither exploitative nor horrific. The fact that he is also supported by a strong cast keeps the movie interesting, Ms. Ramos and Bucio delivering audacious performances.

Stepping outside his social and political boundaries, Mr. Escalante seems to have gotten lost in space and hopefully, for his next film, the otherwise talented director will go back to portraying realistic characters and injustice, which is what he does best.

Director: Amat Escalante – Actors: Kenny Johnston, Simone Bucio – Running Time: 1:40 – Year: 2016 – Country: Mexico
Click here to watch the The Untamed trailer
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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.
Fred Thom

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