In the early 1980s, as Buenos Aires makes an uneasy transition from military dictatorship to democracy, some of the old ways are hard to shake. 

Arqímedes Puccio (Guillermo Francella) is the silver-haired patriarch of a well-to-do family in the fashionable neighbourhood of San Isidiro, whose eldest son Alejandro, or Alex (Peter Lanzani), is a local rugby star and a member of the legendary national team The Pumas. The family has a sinister secret.

Under the dictatorship, some 30,000 citizens were ‘disappeared’ by the military police, and it’s clear that the old man was among the regime’s key enforcers. But with his higher-ups switching sides to keep in with the new leaders, Papa Puccio has to find a new way to keep his family in their accustomed luxury.

 

It’s an extraordinary story,
and all the more shocking for
being based on actual events.

 

Targeting Alex’s wealthy friends and their business-leader neighbours, he embarks on a lucrative and deadly wave of kidnapping for ransom. Alex is a reluctant co-conspirator in thrall to his stern and demanding dad, and his popularity as a sports personality seems set to shield him from suspicion. Everyone in the family – mum (Lili Popovich), two brothers and two sisters – is guilty to some degree, as they turn a deaf ear to the screams of the victims chained in the airless basement of the casa.

It’s an extraordinary story, and all the more shocking for being based on actual events. Director Pablo Trapero approaches the story with a swagger, intercutting the dramatic police raid that brings the family to justice with flashbacks to the despicable dynamics of their crime spree.

The fast-paced action is interspersed with a cracking soundtrack of jaunty pop classics that carry a dark undertone, with The Kinks’ ‘Sunny Afternoon’ and David Lee Roth’s ‘Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody’ used to particularly startling effect.

 

Think Scorsese with subtitles,
spiked with deliciously unsettling
dark humour.

 

Francella, who has a long career as a comedy actor behind him, is transformed here into a cold-eyed sadist performing banal acts of evil alongside his daily duties as family provider and protector. Lanzani also convinces as the obedient but conflicted son, torn between the affections of his sweet new squeeze Mónica (Stefanía Koessl), his brotherhood of rugby pals, and the claustrophobic and twisted demands of home.

A huge box-office hit in Argentina, attracting over 1.5 million viewers in its first two weeks of release, it was nominated in almost every category of the country’s Academy Awards, walking off with five gongs, and international awards include a Silver Lion for Best Director at last year’s Venice Film Festival.

It’s now set to wow UK audiences who lapped up fellow Argentine Damián Szifrón’s similarly exuberant exploration of extreme human behaviour Wild Tales. Think Scorsese with subtitles, spiked with deliciously unsettling dark humour.

The Clan is in cinemas from Friday 16 September, ahead of its DVD and Blu-ray release on 17 October.

Visit the Reader's Digest shop for the latest releases and film classics

Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for stories, tips and laughs

Did you enjoy this article? Share it!

Related Posts