Monos (Alejandro Landes, 2019)
If your current savings allow you to grab just one festival movie, then book one ticket for Monos. It's the best movie I've watched so far at LFF19. It's visceral, never boring, an authentic and singular cinematic experience with no parallels. It resembles Even Dwarfs Started Small (Herzog, 1970), Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra, 2016), Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Herzog, 1972) and a FARC kidnapping movie, but not so much. It's innovative and irradiant.
A group of guerrilleros teenagers call themselves 'monos' (monkeys in Spanish). Their leader is a dwarf that comes from time to time to their base at the top of a mountain to train them militarily, but most of the time he communicates with their 'monos' via radio. That means that not always he can control the guerrilla soldiers. They also have the company of a female foreigner hostage and the cow Shakira.
Only halfway through the film, you start to understand the group dynamics and what they might be doing in such a savage part of the planet. Meanwhile, you are driven by a convulsion of images and sounds which incorporate natural and impulsive violence. It's interesting to note that violence is never clever or mean, as it is in The Report (Scott Z. Burns, also in LFF), for instance. Here violence is an expression of survival instincts, as well as an animalesque response to confinement. And then as soon as you grasp some 'meaning' it is taken away from you. Just like maybe what the guerrilla soldiers are fighting for.
Mica Levi's soundtrack (she also worked on Under the Skin, by Jonathan Glazer, 2014) enriches the story; camerawork is precise; the angles are creative and the tone is drowning. The thick narrative evolves surprisingly, as the soldiers leave the mountains to go deep into the South American rainforest. At this point, a dreadlocks-wearing Moises Arias (pictured above) assumes leadership, becoming ultimately a dictator.
In a very Herzogian style, untamed nature reveals as being bigger than man. The vigorous hostage resists, one of the kids is killed, another escape, weakening massively Moises. Although FARC is never mentioned, Alejandro Landes manages to create an impressing feature of current times. Monos is certainly one of the strongest movies in official competition.
Check more info on the festival site.