Some Beasts (Algunas Bestias) (2019)

Some Beasts (Algunas Bestias) first published by EyeforFilm at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 2019

The ageing patriarch Antonio (Alfredo Castro, Tony Manero) and his wife Dolores (Paulina García, Gloria) travel with their adult daughter Ana (Millaray Lobos), son-in-law Alejandro (Gastón Salgado) and teenaged grandchildren Máximo (Andrew Bargsted) and Consuelo (Consuelo Carreño) to a small island of the southern coast of Chile. Alejandro has purchased the sole property on the island, and is hoping to persuade his parents-in-law to help finance its conversion into an eco-hotel where, in this remote location, tourists can get back to nature. 

This upper middle-class clan from Santiago brings along plenty of its own nature, gradually to be revealed. Antonio is classist, racist and harbours perverted lusts, menopausal Dolores has designs on the help, Máximo is lazy, randy and arrogantly entitled. The house’s caretaker Nicolás (Nicolas Zarate), no longer able to endure the indignities and assaults to which he has been subjected, disappears overnight with the only boat, leaving his employers trapped on the island. Over three days, all their internal tensions come creaking up to the surface, as their civilised veneer is overtaken by bestial ardour and anger.

Director Jorge Riquelme Serrano (Chameleon, 2016) has crafted a chiller of displaced domesticity, as these visitors – fish out of water and entirely out of their league in the absence of a servant to do all the heavy lifting – have their most toxic hypocrisies slowly exposed to the elements.  This sort of family, the public face of Chile’s patrician, privileged values, looks very different when viewed in (literal) isolation – and DP Eduardo Bunster occasionally shoots them from above, bringing a god’s eye view to the incestuous dysfunction that belongs to them, and by extension to the nation’s entire white ruling classes and élites. Some Beasts (Algunas Bestias) offers a window on the decline of the Chilean bourgeoisie, with some strong, confrontingly prolonged scenes towards the end that are very hard to watch (and likely to win the film some controversy) as we witness a corrupted family drowning in its own gene pool.

© Anton Bitel