LOCARNO FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! “A monster was born sitting upon my head. I nourished it. I decided to feed it. And over the years, it grew. It got into my veins. And it began to articulate my thoughts. It conceived the void. And with it, you were torn from my body.” These are the opening words of Critaura (Creature), which takes viewers on a 15-minute journey into the clouded mind of a young woman undergoing the anguish of a breakup.
The short, written and directed by María Silvia Esteve, opens with two women (Laila Desmery and Ayelen Escalzo) lying down, as one discusses the titular creature that lives inside her. She laments that it has seemingly taken over her every decision and action. With that, a tear streams down the cheek of one, and we are then led through a dreamlike barrage of images suggesting the delicate mental state during such monumental times in our lives.
The filmmaker uses a number of cinematic flourishes to present us with the fragmented state in which our lead dwells. From obscured shots of the two women (who appear at times to be the same person) to the echoed edges of her camera, it is evident that these are assembled visions from a mind struggling to find solid ground. Critaura is a sensorial journey as the visuals and audio overtake the viewer. It is filled with inaudible whispers, swelling orchestral scores, and shards of a life attempting to reconcile with the past while confronting the present.
“…a dreamlike barrage of images suggesting the delicate mental state…”
We catch glimpses of a love that was, as well as the passion and pain the accompanied it, and how it exposed the inner-child within. Conversely, we glimpse an amorphous floating blob that looks more at home in a petri dish but is in the center of the frame as the camera pulls toward it. It moves hypnotically, pulsating in a manner that is transfixing and terrifying.
Credit should go to visual effects artist Dan Marello for crafting the floating creature and to Esteve, who seamlessly creates a visual world in which it lives. There are moments where the face of our lead is lovingly caressed by hands behind her, which are then intercut with her alone covered in what we can only assume to be blood. This demonstrates the pleasure and pain balance that often exists in romance, new love in particular.
Critaura should be consumed in an environment that will allow it to wash over the viewer and let the sound and images seep in slowly. The short drama is a dark visual collage in which viewers can extract their own meaning but still identify the feelings in which it elicits.
Critaura screened at the 2021 Locarno Film Festival.
"…should be consumed in an environment that will allow it to wash over the viewer..."