DIRECTED BY: Estaban Sapir
FEATURING: Valeria Bertuccelli, Alejandro Urdapilleta, Rafael Ferro, Sol Moreno, Florencia Raggi, Jonathan Sandor
PLOT: In a town where the only person with a voice, The Voice, doesn’t have a face, Mr. TV has nefarious plans. When he kidnaps The Voice, her eyeless son and their neighbors must find her and stop Mr. TV before he can take what little they have left. Things come to a head during a boxing broadcast where Mr. TV attempts to suck all language out of the citizens.
- La Antena premiered at Rotterdam Festival (2007) and was the first ever film chosen to both open and compete in the festival.
- The movie was a runner-up for the Fantasia Film Festival Ground-Breaker Award, losing the first spot to Repo! The Genetic Opera.
- Made for a reported 1.5 million, the script was only 60 pages but the storyboard consisted of over 3,000 shots. Shooting took 11 weeks and post-production took more than a year.
- This was Estaban Sapir’s second feature film, and is his last completed work to date.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: An angry pixie girl inside an ever-snowing snow globe, with typewriter keys jutting from her helmet, a pacifier in her mouth, and arrows at her feet on which she plays a twisted version of Dance Dance Revolution as she turns the people’s voices into commodities.
TWO WEIRD THINGS: Eyeless boy strapped to Star of David; family climbs crumpled paper mountain
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: La Antena meldswith by way of and , paying homage without feeling derivative. It’s a black and white, (mostly) silent film with subtitles that interact with the scenes. With inventive writing, bizarre characters, and whimsical sets, La Antena surprises throughout.
English-language festival trailer for La Antena
COMMENTS: Helmed by Argentinian writer/director Estaban Sapir, La Antena (The Aerial) is a black and white, mostly silent film obviously influenced by the silent masters of Expressionism. The legacy of modern fantasists Guy Maddin, Terry Gilliam, and Tim Burton, and numerous others can be sensed—probably including Argentinian filmmakers that this reviewer isn’t savvy enough to catch. The film includes live action, stop motion, and CGI, forced perspective, multiple exposures, as well as a bunch of other lighting and filming techniques—both new and old—that make it a feast to watch.
That is to say, La Antena celebrates moviemaking. On its surface it’s an allegory, but the impression is that the story is there to serve the mise en scène and to give the playfully integrated music a chance to do its thing, rather than the other way around. And while its influences may be apparent, La Antena is completely unique.
It is presented as a children’s story—a pop-up book, actually. Mr. TV (Alejandro Urdapilleta), who paints his pate to hide his balding and constantly chews on a fat cigar, has taken the voices from all but one person in the town. The people communicate with words that leave their mouths and become living subtitles that interact with the scene.
Mr, TV has a new nefarious plan, which somehow involves a pixie in a snow globe playing what looks like an intense game of Dance Dance Revolution. For this plan, he needs The Voice (Florencia Raggi)—a sultry, faceless singer and mother of an eyeless boy, Tomás (Jonathan Sandor). To solve her kidnapping and foil Mr. TV, Tomás gets help from his friend Ana (Sol Moreno), her father The Inventor (Rafael Ferro), and her mother The Nurse (Julieta Cardinali).
Two other characters deserve mention. The first is the Son of Mr. TV—a young man simultaneously wanting his father’s approval and hating everything he stands for—played by Valeria Bertuccelli. This gender swap is never commented on, but as she receives first billing, perhaps Argentinians and world cinema buffs will know what’s going on. The other notable character is Mr. TV’s henchman, The Mouse Man (Raúl Hochman), complete with animated tail and snaggle teeth. There are no other hybrid beings—human or otherwise—in the film.
La Antena is full of inventive, imaginative quirks like these. On the downside, the story is thin and has plot holes, and the moral can seem a bit ham-fisted. But if the viewer allows that La Antena is a quirky children’s story for adults, and that it is a movie for the eyes and ears moreso than the logical mind, it is a delight.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“It has a deeply weird story… La Antena’s imagery is often striking, particularly the bizarre image of the eyeless boy being apparently crucified on a Star of David.”–Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (contemporaneous)
“The Tim Burtonish retro design and the blatant references to silent masterworks (Méliès, Metropolis, Buñuel, Eisenstein, Vertov) don’t amount to a style; and even if they did, wouldn’t make up for the kitsch story.”–Robert Hanks, The Independent (contemporaneous)
IMDB LINK: The Aerial (2006)
OTHER LINKS OF INTEREST:
La Antena | IFFR – La Antena page at the International Film Festival Rotterdam website, with a synopsis and a gallery of stills
La Antena (2007) | MUBI – Mubi users’ comments on the film, and suggestions for similar titles
HOME VIDEO INFO:
Unfortunately, to our knowledge La Antena has never been issued on home video in North America (aside from a brief stint on Netflix). A Region 2 DVD with English subtitles, but no special features aside from the trailer, is available (buy).