›› Absent - Ausente
a film by Marco Berger.
2011 | 87 mins | Argentina.
principal players: Carlos Echevarría / Sebastián, Javier De Pietro / Martín, Rocío Pavón / Analía, Alejandro Barbero / Juan Pablo and with Antonella Costa as Mariana.
Adapted Synopsis: "When a teacher finds himself having to give one of his pupil's shelter for the night, is the situation as guileless as what it appears to be?"
Argentine writer and director Marco Berger is a man who loves to play with the boundaries of social convention; whether it be his captivating exploration of the growing bond between two hitherto heterosexual men, that is Plan B, or as here, that of a cinematic dissertation on the student / teacher relationship and a dividing line that one particular pupil is determined to cross. For sixteen-year-old Martín is that student, infatuated with his swimming coach Sebastián, resulting in a web of lies that see him manipulate his way into his teacher's apartment with the sole intent of getting up close and personal with a man, all too aware of the boundaries of their friendship.
In short, this is a feature that takes delight in its provocative twist on the teacher seducing a pupil scenario, opting instead for a moving examination on the nature of human attraction. Wonderfully staged, here we find Berger cast no doubt as to Martín's intense, if non-threatening obsession with his tutor. Yet look right and you'll find that Berger is playing with you, having Sebastián's girlfriend reflect on how a book she was reading didn't tell her what she wanted to hear, mirroring Sebastián's very life, courtesy of a third act that is certain to take you, as it did Sebastián, by surprise. And that's the beauty of this psychological drama; that of a story woven around the way you think it will end, only for Berger to pull the rug from under your feet and in the process throw the narrative in an entirely different, if indeed surreal direction.
Oh what a tangled web we weave in Absent.
But it's a direction that beautifully played, with Javier De Pietro's wandering eye around the pool's locker room leaving the nature of Martín's burgeoning sexuality, all but evident from the onset. Seen later in both the gay and lesbian outings of the Berger / Mónaco Sexual Tension series of erotic short films, here the camera gets close, perhaps too close for comfort to his physique, resulting in a work ever voyeuristically lingering on the bodies of its leading men, with Carlos Echevarría, recently cast in Marcelo Briem Stamm's striking Solo debut, the very persona of a teacher dedicated to the welfare of his student, yet equally aware that his innocent actions could be viewed in an entirely different light. That Sebastián hardly smiles, adds to the serious demeanour of a man who whilst heterosexual on the outside, seemingly pays as little attention to his girlfriend, as Martín does to a girl who clearly has a crush on him.
All is not as it appears to be in Absent.
High in production values, including the splendid cinematography of Tomas Perez Silva, together with the ingrained sexual tension that is now Berger's trademark, this wonderfully unhurried tale of obsessive adoration is built on the solid foundation of character development and storytelling, one in which the emotions of guilt and regret hit the screen with refreshing honesty. All of which makes for a captivating, if somewhat haunting work. It's also one of the films that has been "absent" from my list of reviews for all too long; until now, that is.
Gay Visibility - overt.
Nudity - bare-arsed cheek.
Overall - file under ... 4 stars.