The Silence of the Marsh review: A tense but disappointingly ambiguous thriller
There is no denying the fact that Pedro Alonso is a very perceptive actor, but those who loved his scene-stealing performance in Money Heist should look elsewhere
Netflix's latest Spanish import, El Silencio del Pantano (The Silence of the Marsh), begins interestingly enough, at the eponymous marsh. A man standing, his back towards us, is revealed as a novelist — listed as Q in the credits — played by Pedro Alonso (Money Heist's Berlin). But, as we later learn, this seemingly placid setting has an undercurrent of savagery. A murder happens in the following scene. The killer — this is not a spoiler — is Q.
The early portions of the film give the impression of a reality-merging-with-fiction premise, but for the most part, what we get is a vigilante thriller vibe. It is revealed that the aforementioned murder takes place inside Q's book — or maybe not. When he kidnaps a shady economics professor-cum-politician, things go south for everyone. The professor had his hands in way too many dirty pies, and now every criminal who depended on him wants to know what happened to him.
Director: Marc Vigil
Cast: Pedro Alonso, Carmina Barrios, Nacho Fresneda
Streaming on: Netflix
There is an ageing female drug lord La Puri (an excellent Carmina Barrios) who seems like she can upset the world order just by sitting in her chair. She sends her trusted right-hand man, Falconetti (a supremely menacing Nacho Fresneda) to do the digging. It's he who unleashes the maximum damage. He is someone who would rather hurt somebody before talking to them — if they're alive to listen, that is.
What's most interesting about the film is how the past of every secondary character is revealed, but not Q's. At the signing of his previous book, Q is asked by a fan why there is nothing in his novel about the protagonist's past and why he kills a lot of people. The same can be said of Q. There is no explanation for what he does. The only information we have of him is that he has a brother, who has just sold his Ducati motorcycle to Q. This motorcycle plays a major part in the film's most pivotal moment.
This is a cat-and-mouse thriller with no lofty ambitions. The structure is minimalist, with a 92-min runtime. There are barely four characters with anything significant to do. Since Q's upcoming book involves corruption, it goes without saying that there are sudden bursts of violence with gory outcomes that one doesn't see coming. Heads and bodies are bashed by a variety of weapons, including a crowbar. But the film is careful not to dwell too much on the bloodshed. After all, there are not many characters.
Where the film falters is in its final moments. The abrupt, ambiguous finale feels like a gimmick written just to appear smart. Multiple questions popped up in my mind: Are the murders happening in his book, or are they happening for real? Is the ending real, or was it just another chapter in his book — or did it actually precede the previous scene?
While ambiguity can sometimes make a film much more interesting, the absence of a compelling protagonist doesn't help. I guess a metaphor-ish monologue about eels and reeds is supposed to give us some kind of hint about him, but instead comes off as random and pretentious.
There is no denying the fact that Pedro Alonso is a very perceptive actor, but those who loved his scene-stealing performance in Money Heist should look elsewhere. Overall, The Silence of the Marsh feels like a series that was cancelled right after the pilot episode.