La Ciénaga – The Criterion Collection #743 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 31, 2015 by  


While the purveying atmosphere of this film makes you feel that bad things will happen to some character…you know that it’s just a matter of when.  And that uneasiness of its characters living everyday life is what makes “La Cienaga” a film worth watching!

Image courtesy of © Lita Stantic Productions S.A. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: La Ciénaga – The Criterion Collection #743


DURATION: 101 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, Color, Spanish 2.0 Surround, Subtitles: English


RELEASE DATE: January 27, 2015

Directed by Lucrecia Martel

Written by Lucrecia Martel

Executive Producer: Ana Aizenberg, Diego Guebel, Mario Pergolini

Produced by Lita Stantic

Co-Producer: Jose Maria Morales

Line Producer: Marta Parga

Cinematography by Hugo Colace

Edited by Santiago Ricci

Casting by Florencia Blanco, Martin Mainoli, Luciana Rico, Natalia Smirnoff

Production & Art Direction by Graciela Oderingo

Set Decoration by Cristina Nigro


Mercedes Moran as Tali

Graciela Borges as Mecha

Martin Adjemian as Gregorio

Leonora Balcarce as Veronica

Silvia Bayle as Mercedes

Sofia Bertolotto as Momi

Juan Cruz Bordeu as Jose

Noelia Bravo Herrera as Agustina

Maria Micol Ellero as Mariana

Andrea Lopez as Isabel

Sebastian Montagna as Luciano

Daniel Valenzuela as Rafael

Franco Veneranda as Martin

Fabio Villafane as Perro

Diego Baenas as Joaquin

The release of Lucrecia Martel’s La Ciénaga heralded the arrival of an astonishingly vital and original voice in Argentine cinema. With a radical and disturbing take on narrative, beautiful cinematography, and a highly sophisticated use of on- and offscreen sound, Martel turns her tale of a dissolute bourgeois extended family, whiling away the hours of one sweaty, sticky summer, into a cinematic marvel. This visceral take on class, nature, sexuality, and the ways that political turmoil and social stagnation can manifest in human relationships is a drama of extraordinary tactility, and one of the great contemporary film debuts.


Years before Argentian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel would be known for her involvement in “New Argentine Cinema” and before the making of her critically appraised films “The Holy Girl” and “The Headless Woman”, Martel would introduce herself to the world with her debut film “La Ciénaga” (The Swamp).

With the film receiving the Criterion Collection treatment and a release on Blu-ray and DVD in Jan. 2015, “La Ciénaga” which had been voted as the “greatest Latin American film of the decade” in a poll by New York Critics, will be released in the U.S. with a new 4K resolution transfer.

“La Cienaga” is a film that focuses on two Argentine bourgeois families and is presented as a day-in-the-life of these two families.

One family features a 50-year-old woman named Mecha (portrayed by Graciela Borges) who raises several teenagers.

The family tries to live an upper class life, while Mecha’s husband Gregorio (portrayed by Martin Adjemian) wants to live life like he is young, and in order to live the life, both are often drinking a lot of alcohol and belittling their Amerindian servants.  Mecha thinks her servant is stealing from her and thinks they are lazy.

While her daughter Momi (portrayed by Sofia Bertolotto) seems to be smitten with one of the female servants named Isabel (portrayed by Andrea Lopez).  And Mecha’s

And for the summer, Mecha, Gregorio and kids spend their summer at a country home which they have named “La Mandragora”.

Meanwhile, Mecha’s cousin, Tali (portrayed by Mercedes Moran) lives in La Cienaga (The Swamp) and has four younger children that she and Rafael (portrayed by Daniel Valenzuela) are busy them.   And father and children love to hunt.

Take a peek into the life of both families living their life around La Cienaga.


“La Ciénaga – The Criterion Collection #743” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is fantastic as the 4K restoration brings out the colors and additional clarity of the film. Skin tones look natural, there is a good amount of grain throughout the film and I saw no signs of problematic artifacts or banding.

According to the Criterion Collection, “Approved by director Lucrecia Martel, this new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the original cut camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.”


As for audio, “La Ciénaga – The Criterion Collection #743” is presented in Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 with English subtitles.  Dialogue and music is clear and there are moments where rifle shots, dog barking are heard with great clarity.  I didn’t notice any hiss or popping during my viewing of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original 2.0 surround soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic soundtrack. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX4.”


“La Ciénaga – The Criterion Collection #743” comes with the following special features:

  • Lucrecia Martel – (18:28) Filmmaker Lucrecia Martel discusses her approach to filmmaking.
  • Andres Di Tella – (23:41) Writer/Director Andres Di Tella discusses Lucrecia Martel’s filmmaking and her film “La Cienaga”.
  • Trailer – (1:50) The original theatrical trailer for “La Cienaga”.


“La Ciénaga – The Criterion Collection #743” comes with a six-page insert with the essay “What’s Outside the Frame” by David Oubina.


There are not many times in my life where I watch a film about families and thinking about how dysfunctional and messed up they are.

Prior to La Ciénaga’s release in 2001, I would often compare films to Ang Lee’s 1997 film “The Ice Storm” of it being on the top of families that are f’d up in cinema but now I can add another that can easily be on top of that list, Lucrecia Martel’s “La Ciénaga”.

From the opening scene of “La Ciénaga”, audiences are immediately sent a red flag in regards to the bourgeois families in the film.

From the opening scenes of copious amounts of alcohol being drunk, we are treated with the first red flag as family matriarch, Mecha and her family and friends are partying, she falls on her wine glass injuring herself as shards of glass penetrate her chest.

But what is shocking is that the adults do nothing to help her, it’s her children that tries to help her and we realize that there is something up with these families.

But while “The Ice Storm” sets the stage of characters that have problematic situations, “La Cienaga” is about a family that lives like they do because that is the life.  Those who were probably quite social during the ’60s-’80s now in their older age still wanting to hold on to their younger years, children who are discovering their sexuality but the bad part about this is that because the families and extended families are together, these teenagers are discovering sexuality with one another.  And its a incestuous overtone that you wonder if these children will cross over the line.

And that’s one thing that “La Ciénaga” had a lot of, wanting to see how far these characters would cross that underlining line of taboo.  Children holding guns, not knowing if they are going to off someone accidentally.   Cousins showering next to each other, curious about each other’s sexuality and wondering if they will have sex with each other.  One of the daughters, if she will hook up with the maid?

That is what makes “La Ciénaga” so fascinating is that it depicts the characters in everyday life, but when you watch that everyday life, you can’t help but feel that something is going to happen.  Something bad and it keeps you interested in the film.

If there is one thing that I know some people had difficulties is the racism towards the Amerindians (from what I have read online, a lot of the racism from Argentina is typically towards immigrants from Bolivia or Paraguay).

But this film is a depiction of what Lucrecia Martel had seen growing up and it reflects the decay of humanity in some ways.  Parents too preoccupied with themselves, thinking ill of others, while curious children being children but they are within inches of crossing over a line of incestual desire.  No matter how wrong things may look, there is no need of correcting it, especially if you were raised with a belief that those on a lower economic level are all thieves or terrible people.  When these people themselves are no different with the pool being disgusting, homes being crowded and really, people that resent others, are co-dependent within other members of the family and perhaps even being resentful of the uncaring to those who receive more attention than others.

In the film, we see a cow just stuck in the swamp, with no way to get out.  These characters are stuck in their man-made swamp and like the cow, potential of escaping that life is very low.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality for “La Ciénaga” is well-done.  The film was meant to be shot the way it is, looking dreary and lack of happiness or hope.  But the 4K mastering does bring out the clarity of the film, while the lossless stereo soundtrack is clear and front-channel driven.  You also get a few special features included.

Overall, “La Ciénaga” is a wonderful debut film for Lucrecia Martel.  Watching the film makes you become a voyeur of a crowded home, two different families in a depressing, gloomy background.

While the purveying atmosphere of this film makes you feel that bad things will happen to some character…you know that it’s just a matter of when.  And that uneasiness of its characters living everyday life is what makes “La Ciénaga” a film worth watching!

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