QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM THE TALLINN BLACK NIGHTS FILM FESTIVAL
The young and handsome Ernesto (Rafael Ernesto Hernandez) is a Cuban actor seeking work in Mexico City. He is very famous back home, he claims. However, he is unable to find a job and start a new career in this highly competitive city of 22 million inhabitants, mostly due to his distinctive talk. He needs to put up a Mexican accent in order to impress his auditioners and land a much-desired prominent role.
Ernesto comes across the same beggar twice while travelling on a metro train. The also young and beautiful woman (Fatima Molina) tells commuters that she suffered a major accident, which left her unable to work, prompting them to spare significant amounts of change. She dons a scar and crutches. Ernesto notices, however, that her performance is inconsistent: the first time she pretended that her leg was hurt, while the second time it was her arm that she couldn’t move. He challenges the elusive stranger, only to be kidnapped by two gangsters who were watching over the female.
He soon finds out that the woman is called Belen and she works for a greedy capo called David Torrico. His criminal labour consists of training professional beggars. A group of perfectly healthy people are taught how to look ill and vulnerable. And this is where Ernesto’s skills come in handy. He quickly becomes a very effective teacher, adored by his very unusual pupils. The lessons consist of various clever ruses, from the perfect facial expression to embracing the sick character in full splendour.
Belen and Erenesto predictably develop a romantic connection, but their relationship is as toxic and dangerous as the criminal trade of David Torrico. Plus, Belen and her boss have some dirty secrets in store, and they could compromise Ernesto’s integrity. Ernesto suspects that there’s something rotten after a young woman – one of the con artists – is run over by a car. He believes that David murdered her because she was disloyal to the group.
All in all, Marionette is a tribute to the art of acting. It’s an interesting premise, with plenty of flamboyant and peculiar characters. But it also feels a somewhat unnatural and contrived. The acting classes lack vigour and wit. They come across as too puerile. The romance isn’t entirely convincing, either. There’s very little spark. It is a film that purports to play with language and format, but ultimately falls the the traps it set out to avoid. It’s simply trite and formulaic.
Marionette is showing in Competition at the 23rd Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. DMovies have been invited to the event as special guests.