Someone is out to get Constantino Zegarra, a judge with an impressive conviction rate — and any number of enemies. So why is it so hard for others to believe he’s the victim of a conspiracy? This black comedy and offbeat crime procedural combines elements of a paranoid thriller and with social commentary.
Diego Vega, Daniel Vega
Someone is out to get Constantino Zegarra. At least that's what Constantino Zegarra believes — and he has his reasons. His car window is smashed, he receives a career-killing demotion, and then, while driving at night, he's hit in the neck by what appears to have been a stray bullet. Or was it? Constantino is a judge with no sympathy for sob stories and an impressive conviction rate. He could have any number of enemies.
This captivating second feature from Peru's Diego and Daniel Vega — whose debut, October, won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes — is a pleasingly slippery hybrid, a black comedy and oddball procedural that incorporates elements of the paranoid thriller and offers subtle social commentary.
Constantino's wound leaves him temporarily unable to express anything more than a faint wheeze, thus this authority figure, accustomed to making declarations, is reduced to silence. He is a man who has mercilessly adhered to legal precedence, yet, when no one seems to buy his conspiracy theory, he finds himself bending and finally breaking the law so as to smoke out his hidden adversary.
El Mudo initially confines itself to a
stark style, with few cuts and little camera
movement — until the Vega brothers begin
breaking away from this, with an unexpected
push-in, a sudden craning upward
over an intersection, and a lyrical fusion
of musical scoring and slow motion. Like
its protagonist, this fascinating film begins
with severity before gradually allowing
itself to open up to greater expressiveness,
and, ultimately, even compassion.