“Obvious” is likely the last word that would be used to describe Argentine writer-director Gastón Solnicki’s Kékszakállú—by a large margin, the most baffling film discussed in this dispatch. Inspired by a Hungarian opera, Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, it follows a group of young women as they chart their independence and enter adulthood. If that description seems excessively vague, it’s because the film is virtually plotless, its connection to Bartók’s opera palpable, but extremely difficult to pin down. That tenuous link aside, what immediately beguiles is Solnicki’s astonishing formal prowess. This is the kind of film that can leave a viewer enraptured within minutes, based solely on its images. Even before the opening title card, Solnicki delivers composition after stunning composition, making impressive use of duration, off-screen sound, negative space, color, and music (from the original opera), among other cinematic techniques. It’s not this film’s narrative, but the particulars of its construction, that are crucial; not for nothing do some of the characters discuss industrial design and architecture (physical space and its use is central to the film’s multivalent concerns). By the time Kékszakállú‘s closing shot arrives, the film’s particulars may not be any clearer than they were at the very beginning. But it’s ultimately that intrigue that matters, and Kékszakállú is compelling from the first frame to the last.
Published as part of Vancouver International Film Festival 2016 | Dispatch 2.