Written by Nora Leticia Sarti, Hernán Findling’s Impossible Crimes (Crímenes Imposibles) is a film difficult to discuss because it is so easy to spoil – even though the broad shape of the Big Twist™, if perhaps not all its minor details, is so clearly broadcast that most genre fans will be way ahead of the game from only a few minutes into the film.
Hospitals dominate the opening: the low-angle POV of a patient being rushed along a corridor past an agitated mother and son, followed by a scene where protagonist Lorenzo Brandoni (Federico Bal) visits his twin sister in a cancer ward shortly before she succumbs to her illness, as his pregnant wife waits outside. Cut to a few years later and, still grieving and distracted by a manuscript on which he has been working, Lorenzo reluctantly heads out on a car trip with his wife and young son. En route, there is a terrible accident. Years later, Lorenzo is a mirth-free pill-popping workaholic police detective, wracked with guilt and despair over his various losses, and currently investigating a series of bizarre and brutal murders in which there is no apparent murderer (including, for example, a woman drowning in the closet of an otherwise dry building, her lungs filled with water from a distant river delta).
“It could have been done psychologically,” suggests Lorenzo’s jovial colleague Julio (Marcelo Sein), trying to explain deaths which the media have dubbed, not inaccurately, ‘impossible crimes’. When a young nun named Caterina (Sofia Del Tuffo) comes forward claiming to be linked to the killings through her vivid dreams, Lorenzo slowly comes to realise that he may have been wrong to turn his back on God, and that perhaps the only possible solution for this strange case is a leap of faith into the light.
While dressed in the supernatural slayings, demonic possessions, unruly exorcisms and ghostly manifestations that typically make up genre cinema, the investigative framework of Impossible Crimes, and the appeal to paradox in the film’s very title, leaves it clear that this is ultimately a mystery (akin to the ‘locked room’ variety, although also wth a nod to religious ritual), as a faithless man is forced to recognise that there may be more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in his philosophy.
There may be reasons why Lorenzo is so affectless and robotic in his policing duties, but it is also these precise qualities which make him a deeply unsympathetic, even boring, character, which might leave some viewers cold towards his strange ordeal and unengaged by his struggles. The biggest problem here, though, is that many will quickly grasp where his investigation – ultimately as much spiritual as psychological – is taking him, and will regard the various stages through which he passes as mere padding on his/our path to the truth’s inevitable Big Reveal. This is in part because the division between Lorenzo’s conflicting realities is too starkly signposted for any observant viewer to miss. Still, if you like a Lynchian fugue, or a nightmare in a damaged brain, and are curious to see how these tropes might play out amid the setting and culture of a religious Buenos Aires barreling along the bumpy road towards secularism, then Impossible Crimes lays out this contradictory conundrum, and provides something of a satisfying (re)solution.
© Anton Bitel