Nominated for: In Competition Feature Films
Hortensia is an Argentinian film full of charm, quirkiness, and is somewhat confusing. Let this not deter you, as the eponymous character Hortensia is played by Camila Romagnolo, whose comedic timing is perfect and irreplaceable. Romagnolo is also joined by a superb cast, all of whom are so fit for their roles you would think their parts were written for them. One of the first scenes establishes her father’s death by electrocution – from their fridge – by having a local man who wants embalming done asking Hortensia whether he is free. Simply stating his death, the man responds that it was a shame as ‘he was the only one who could do the job’. Nodding solemnly, Hortensia later leads us back to her home in which her father’s outline is traced in chalk on the kitchen floor. From the off, then, we know what we are in for.
The house is filled with embalmed animals and this only adds to the strange atmosphere of the film. At a party scene in the beginning a bunch of nameless people are dancing all in time to the music, all with hilariously deadpan faces. Another weird but funny scene involves Hortensia dreaming about her dead father encountering a deer’s head which has a cigarette still smoking in its mouth. There’s something almost Murakami-ish in this sequence, and it is funny because of its ridiculousness and its absolute refusal to acknowledge this fact.
“almost Murakami-ish… and funny because of its ridiculousness”
What holds the film together – and is much needed – is two goals that Hortensia made for herself when she was a young girl. They are: 1 – to go out with a man who is blonde like her father, and 2 – to design the most beautiful shoe in the world. Despite meeting her perfect man early on, the adorable Ismael (Agustin Scalise), she goes in search of a blonde man to meet her very specific requirements. Finding Marcos (David Szechtman), ‘have you always been blond?’, we proceed to have a very funny pre-sex (we assume) scene where she tells him to take off his shoes, and he asks why, ultimately losing a sock. Throughout the film are these offbeat moments that leads us through the story without really questioning why. In a later scene where Hortensia is eating dinner at Marcos’ parent’s house, she leaves abruptly causing his mother to say ‘was it too salty?’
The film is ultimately a collection of these scenes, which are indescribably funny and perplexing. We move from scene to scene with absolutely no expectation as to what will come next, but sure that it will be quirkier than the last. The cast is exceptional at creating a deadpan humour that the film would be impossible without. Hortensia is visually interesting also, matching well with the comedy of it, and in particular the last scene is really quite stunning. Ultimately Hortensia can be best likened to Amelie – idiosyncratic, fun, and leaves you not entirely sure what you’re watching. All of this in the best possible way, Hortensia is definitely worth seeing as the awkward moments of comedic genius are perfectly executed.
Image: Diego Lublinsky & Álvaro Urtizberea