Warning: This film is not for sensitive souls – it contains graphic depictions of sexual violence (especially against women), rape, torture, and incest.
To say Lucio A. Rojas’s Trauma is brutal is to be too simplistic in using the one word. In fact, if I had taken a shot for every time I wanted to use the word in this review I would be quite drunk (which was what happened, and I ended up passing out during the initial draft). The film is a sobering sight, in all honesty.
In short, Trauma is going to assault your senses and leave you staggering all the way through its agonising ride.
The prologue, set in Chile 1978, gives you an explicit idea of what to expect for the next 101 minutes: the film starts with a bang (literally) as a father, and agent for the ruthless Pinochet regime, interrogates and tortures a dissident whilst manipulating his young son to partake in the atrocious action.
The rest of the film is set in 2011. Four women Sisters Andrea (Catalina Martin) and Camila (Macarena Carrere), their cousin Magdalena (Dominga Bofill) and Camila’s girlfriend Julia (Ximena del Solar), take a trip to the countryside for some rest and relaxation in a family cabin. They stop at a rural bar to ask for directions and icy stares are exchanged until Juan (Daniel Antivilo) intervenes, allowing the women to leave unscathed. What the four do not know is that Juan is the local tyrant with a nasty sadistic streak.
Later on, at the cabin, the drinks start flowing and the party is in full swing until Juan and his son, Mario (Felipe Rios), force their way in and brutally attack the party, raping them within an inch of their lives. The horror continues the following day when the local constables get involved, and Juan kidnaps a little girl and takes her back to his stronghold.
One must not dismiss the on-screen violence as portrayed for its own sake. On the contrary, the violence speaks for itself to further the point of the film, which is particularly true for the political undertones of Trauma. To quote Tom Waits: “If there’s one thing you can say about mankind, there’s nothing kind about man.”
Trauma could easily be labeled “torture porn” but once you understand the history behind the events, you then conclude that art shamefully imitates life in this instance. The film itself is shocking, but the truth behind Pinochet’s rule provides a horrific base, illustrating the sins of the father and the realisation that there are additional levels to the monster.
The violence has the same shock value as a Serbian Film, but not as slick or over the top; Trauma holds the subject matter closer to the truth as seen with the constant references to the past, such as the newspaper clippings and flashbacks to Juan’s upbringing; another comparison can be seen in Hostel, but minus the latent satire. It must be added that the pacing is on par with Wrong Turn and carries a heavier sentiment of passing down aggressive genes and history.
The director makes excellent use of low camera angles to add to the desperation of situations, this is best seen in the tension of the home invasion scenes. Establishing shots of where characters are eventually heading fuel the dread apparent throughout the film, such as the outside shots of Juan’s compound.
Colour plays an integral part as the warm, light colours drain out progressively in the story until the majority of scenes are in dull shades or dark blues that give you the sense that all life has been sapped. The colour returns in the end to give a glimmer of hope.
Credit must be given to the main actors as they gave stellar performances in such demanding roles. Antivilo does an amazing job of convincing the audience that he is a disturbed man who takes extreme delight in the pain he causes. Each of the actresses deserve recognition for the dedication they gave to their roles – more than enough to make you writhe uncomfortably in scenes.
Rojas has produced possibly the most controversial film in Latin America to date. His attempts to capture the raw, unmerciful spectre of a regime that left an indelible mark on Chile’s history is well suited as this film leaves the viewer stunned, even after the final scene.
Trauma lives up to its name.
Available on Blu-ray, DVD, Cable and Digital HD October 23rd