Review: Daniel & Ana DVD

STUDIO: Strand Releasing | DIRECTOR: Michael Franco | CAST: Dario Yazbeck Bernal, Marimar Vega, Chema Torre
RELEASE DATE: 10/12/10 | PRICE: DVD $24.99
SPECS: NR | 90 min. | Foreign-language drama | widescreen | stereo | Spanish with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

2009 film Daniel & Ana, the debut movie from Mexican director Michel Franco, contains a unique brand of violence and horror that has persisted in Spanish-speaking cinema for nearly a century.

Think of the great surrealist Luis Buñuel and the opening of his classic 1929 short film Un Chien Andalou, in which a man uses a straight razor to cut open a woman’s eyeball. One of the hypotheses regarding why Buñuel would choose to do this is that it was for pure shock value; he wanted to assault the eye of the viewer with as blunt a metaphor as he could conjure. It’s a gesture that seems to be directed as much at the viewers themselves as at the characters who suffer it. For more recent examples, one need only take a look at Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) or Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Orphanage (2007) or, most recently, Daniel & Ana.

Daniel and Ana (Dario Yazbeck Bernal and Marimar Vega) are a brother and sister from a wealthy Mexican family who are kidnapped and subsequently suffer a sexual depredation as unspeakable as the mercilessly explicit scene in which it is depicted. They spend the rest of the film trying to rebuild their humanity in their own separate ways, though more cringe-worthy scenes are still on the menu in the film’s second half.

Writer/director Franco gives the movie an almost authoritarian muteness.  Dialog and expression are quiet and minimal, and even the characters’ faces are often turned away or off screen. This serves to highlight the siblings’ emotional ruin, especially in contrast with all the other characters who are unaware of what happened, but it also cause the movie to drag.

Everyone is convincingly acted, especially the striking Marimar Vega as Ana.

If word gets out about what the movie is about and what happens in it, thrill-seekers and art house film fans might buy it for no more than the raw shock value, which is its greatest asset. But be forewarned that this is NOT a family film.


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About Alex

Alex Kikuchi loves movies of every size and variety and has fancied himself a film critic ever since Mystery Science Theater made it look so easy when he was a kid in the 1990s.