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Review of THE BEASTS by Rodrigo Sorogoyen - The Best Thriller of 2022

Por Juan Camilo Ardila (Twitter: @juanardila87)

When I decided to make a personal top list of the best movies of 2022 for CineVista, I didn't want to leave out a Spanish film that had struck me as both fascinating and heart-wrenching. That's why I wanted to include it as the 'best thriller' of last year. This Spanish-French production will arrive in the country's main cities as part of the tenth Spanish Film Showcase in Colombia.

THE BEASTS is directed by one of the most extraordinary Spanish filmmakers of this century, Rodrigo Sorogoyen, who has been the screenwriter and director of other fantastic films such as "May God Save Us" (2016) and "The Realm" (2018). Sorogoyen is also responsible for the HBO miniseries "Antidisturbios" (2020), a thrilling police drama that I consider a masterpiece that everyone should watch.

The title THE BEASTS refers to the cultural and touristic event A Rapa das Bestas (shearing of the beasts), which takes place annually in the Galician village of Sabucedo, located in Pontevedra, a city in the northwest of Spain's region of Galicia. In this celebration, men cut the manes of horses that live in the wild, deworm them, brand them, and treat any wounds they may have.

It is in this remote corner of rural Spain that Sorogoyen's film takes place, representing the Madrid-born filmmaker's debut at Cannes, where it was warmly received by critics. It had its world premiere in the official section of Cannes (out of competition) and went on to be screened at various Class A festivals, such as the Tokyo International Film Festival, where it won "Best Film," "Best Director," and "Best Actor" awards.

What is the movie about? THE BEASTS tells the story of a French couple who have been living in the aforementioned Galician village for a couple of years. They are Olga and Antoine, portrayed respectively by Marina Foïs and Denis Ménochet, the latter being known for his role as a farmer who hid Shosanna and her family from the Nazis in Quentin Tarantino's masterful "Inglourious Basterds."

Antoine and Olga are outsiders in the place they have chosen as their home. They are kind and polite and have a good relationship with most of the village's inhabitants. However, a discussion about the permission to build a wind farm in the area unleashes tensions with a pair of brothers (played by Luis Zahera and Diego Anido), who become their sworn enemies.

THE BEASTS presents the classic hostility between neighbors, but in a wilder and more primitive microcosm where xenophobia is deeply rooted in the ecosystem. This film is primarily a psychological thriller that uses the codes of the western genre to recreate the implicit violence that can be seen and felt in each scene. THE BEASTS has a runtime of about two and a half hours, and despite its length, the viewers never get a break. With each new sequence, we see the tension building up until it reaches a point of no return.

From the opening sequence, where we see a horse struggling and being subdued by men bearing the scars of living so close to nature in slow motion, there is an overwhelming savagery. Later on, in a brilliantly filmed single-shot scene, Sorogoyen, a master of tension, exposes that savagery, this time between two men arguing in a bar.

At a certain point in the story, Marina Foïs character takes center stage as a woman with admirable courage and resilience. Her daughter (Marie Colomb) and the elderly mother of the Galician brothers (Luisa Merelas) also highlight the female perspective through the powerful portrayal of male brutality.

That's why THE BEASTS is truly sublime because it not only shows us the violence between neighbors but also how that violence generates a series of direct consequences for each member of the families, enveloping them all in that dark and terrifying landscape.

The film is not a moralistic discourse about two antagonistic views of rural life; it is a story about how violence exposes the human beasts living inside us and how, through an impeccable staging that has become the director's trademark, it presents multiple ways of achieving 'justice and revenge' through one's own hands, beyond brute force.

The director himself explains it: "You try to understand what the story is to try to position the camera and tell the actors the best way to show the violence. There is tension from the script, then when planning, there are scenes that needed to be very violent when the action is not."

THE BEASTS is the most solid work - along with the series "Antidisturbios" - by this Spanish filmmaker. It is an atmospheric thriller that grabs you from the first minute and leaves you with irreparable marks when the credits roll. You don't watch THE BEASTS; it grabs hold of you and lets you go in the end. And it makes you think and feel many things during and after being subjected to it, as great films do.

Cast and Crew

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