ILUMINADOS POR EL FUEGO/ ENLIGHTENED BY FIRE (Tristán Bauer) Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Enlightened By Fire doesn't say anything original about war, but it does offer a setting unfamiliar to most North American filmgoers - namely the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, which the Argentines unsuccessfully tried to get back from the British in the early 1980s.
Two decades after fighting there, Buenos Aires journalist Esteban (Gastón Pauls) learns of his army pal Vargas's (Pablo Riva) suicide attempt, and goes to visit him in hospital, where he's in a coma, watched over by his girlfriend Marta (Virginia Innocenti).
Esteban, whose present life is shadowy, immediately begins remembering the war, and it soon becomes clear that he needs some closure.
Director Tristán Bauer is more comfortable shooting the war scenes than the contemporary ones. Digital video gives immediacy to much of the violence, which starts out verbal (courtesy of some sadistic military types) and ends up in all-out chaos and carnage.
Along the way, there's lots of male bonding in the trenches, especially between buddies Esteban, Vargas and Chamorso (César Albarracén). Too bad Bauer underlines many of the scenes with manipulative music. (The worst case? Jagged Schoenbergian stabs of sound underscore a grisly scene in the infirmary.)
The film, awarded prizes at festivals in Spain and Havana, has little to say about Argentina's social conditions, past or present, but it does tell us that as many veterans attempted suicide as died during the war.
We also learn the horrifying fact that up to 25,000 land mines remain in certain areas of the Falklands, now marked off-limits.
Iluminados screens Saturday (April 8) as part of the Hispano-American Film Festival at the Bloor.