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SAN SEBASTIAN 2023 Competition

Review: The Practice


- The Argentinian Martín Rejtman presents a comedy featuring philosophical reflection, mocking criticism and a compassionate portrayal of his characters

Review: The Practice
Esteban Bigliardi in The Practice

Gustavo, played with ease and grace by Esteban Bigliardi, is the absolute star of The Practice [+see also:
interview: Martín Rejtman
film profile
, with which the Argentinian Martín Rejtman competes for the first time for the Golden Shell at the San Sebastián International Film Festival. He is an Argentinian yoga teacher who lives in Santiago de Chile, where he moved because of his wife, from whom he is now separating. Both ran an academy where they instructed their students in this ancient practice. After the separation, the centre passes to him and Vanesa (Manuela Oyarzún), the name of his (ex) wife, takes the house and the furniture they shared. There is a mismatch in how the couple handles this situation. She is determined and completely closed to a possible reconciliation with the therapist they both go to. He, however, does not fully accept the events. To the point that he chooses the house of his (ex) brother-in-law and his wife as a temporary residence while he tries to get back on his feet.

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With these ingredients, it might feel like this is just an ordinary comedy of sentimental entanglements, but what Rejtman does is something different, even radically different. The almost mechanical way that the characters enunciate their dialogue, the static shots and the schematic way that they are assembled through the montage give a somewhat cold tone to it all. This fits Gustavo's state of mind perfectly; semi-bewildered and self-absorbed. Our protagonist is a man clearly in over his head. A German student who feels harassed in some way and suffers amnesia after a blow during an earthquake, a mother who hasn't quite cut the umbilical cord, a robbery in the changing rooms where the main suspect is a new student... and so on.

Basically, Gustavo's life is a mess. He doesn't seem to be able to take the reins, if such reins even exist. And in this disaster, a group of characters are revealed who are as colourful as they are lovable in their own unique way. Rejtman introduces all these creatures, including the protagonist, with a tender distance; at times it might seem like he is judging them somewhat parodically, but the final sensation is that of fascination. It seems that, with The Practice, the Argentinian director wants to surrender to the bewildering but passionate chaos that is existence. In a story that has no shortage of dramatic elements, the comedy is forced through absurd situations, hilarious dialectical twists and subtle but accurate gestures that make you connect with the characters, however far removed from ourselves they may seem and however inexplicable and incoherent their decisions may seem to us.

What there is no doubt about is that Rejtman's gaze is original. The filmmaker creates a universe of his own through recognisable elements, highlighting some of the neuroses that plague the majority of human beings navigating the unhinged 21st century. Distant yet warm, absurd yet lucid, disconcerting yet transparent. All these adjectives fit a fully enjoyable film.

The Practice is a production from the Argentinian Un Puma, co-produced with Quijote Films (Chile), Rosa Filmes (Portugal) and Pandora Filmproduktion (Germany). International sales are managed by US company Visit Films.

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(Translated from Spanish by Vicky York)

Photogallery 25/09/2023: San Sebastián 2023 - The Practice

22 pictures available. Swipe left or right to see them all.

© 2023 Dario Caruso for Cineuropa -, Dario Caruso

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