Ausente | Absent
DIRECTOR: Marco Berger | WRITERS: Marco Berger | CAST: Carlos Echevarría, Javier De Pietro, Antonella Costa, Rocío Pavón, Alejandro Barbero | Argentina
It’s really unclear to me what kind of movie Marco Berger thought he was making when he wrote and directed Ausente. The insistent and unsubtle score proclaims over and over that it’s a suspense thriller and every now and then Berger structures his scenes as though a big thrill or twist in the plot was about to happen and then…it fizzles. Horny 16-year-old Martín (doughy Javier De Pietro) cruises every male he sees before setting his sights on his high school swimming coach, Sebastián (Carlos Echevarría), and by means of a transparently fake story manages to spend the night at Sebastián’s apartment. Martín lounges around, undresses, and coyly flirts with the gloomy and preoccupied coach, but nothing happens. In the days that follow Martín avoids swimming practice and eventually confesses to Sebastián that he’d lied to him about why he wanted to spend the night. Sebastián slugs Martín, but whether it was homo panic or anger at being lied to is not clear at all — it’s so murky that I’m not even sure if the murkiness was intended or the result of really sloppy directing. A key plot development takes place so quickly and is filmed so obliquely that if you turned your head for a couple of seconds you wouldn’t even know it happened, and the last half hour of the film is a tonal mess. What makes Ausente so frustrating is that not only is Martín an underdeveloped character, but we have absolutely no idea what’s going on in Sebastián’s head. Carlos Echevarría wears an unvaryingly pensive, gloomy, pained expression from his very first appearance and throughout the movie, and the script is singularly unhelpful. Is Sebastián straight and homophobic? Straight but not homophobic? Gay but in the closet? Was he aware that Martín was trying to seduce him? Not aware? And what are we to make of the end of the movie? What is it that Sebastián is apologizing for? I’ve got a feeling that Carlos Echevarría might actually be a talented actor who was just struggling with a badly written part and getting no help from the neophyte director.