In a modern day and time where social media allows you to be whoever you want to be publicly, but totally different behind closed doors, The Clan tells the true story of a family who mastered that art in the late 1970s in Argentina. While outwardly, this family seemed to have it all, inwardly the patriarch led his sons in kidnapping the wealthy for large ransoms. What may be even more ghastly is that the victims were kept in the house with the rest of the family.
Arquimedes Puccio (Guillermo Francella) is a shop owner and father of five. His son Alejandro (Peter Lanzani) is a star rugby player on the Pumas. Even though Alex has promise with rugby, his father wants him to help with the family business, both of them. While Alejandro is internally torn, he carries out his father’s wishes, working in the shop and helping to kidnap those his father has marked.
The longer you watch, the more enthralled you become with the story of obvious detachment of Arquimedes’ morality, Alejandro’s internal conflict as he loses his own, and who else in the family is complicit in what’s happening. In fact, part of the intrigue is the vague understanding of who amongst the Puccio family knows what’s going on. You think that they all have to know what’s going on, but it’s never quite clear. As the film moves forward, more layers are revealed that solidify the eeriness of a family that seems to be free under the house of their father/husband but chained to his unspoken regime.
Francella is stellar as Arquimedes. His unassuming look and polite demeanor in an aged body, make his performance that much more powerful and intrinsically scary. You can tell that he did the pre-production work to come to grips with how his character lived with himself at the end of the day and justified his actions internally. Kidnapping in one scene and loving his family in the next is as natural as breathing.
Director Pablo Trapero is very comfortable with the relationship between his camera and cast. He knows when to move the camera and when to keep a still frame, striking a sweet balance that leads to a beautiful dance of blocking. Trapero’s controlled yet visually eloquent camera brilliantly mirrors the controlled and calculated efforts of Arquimedes. He allows the viewer the freedom to choose where to look, while still manipulating the frame.
Where The Clan succeeds is in its ability to tell a dramatic and horrifying tale, without being cinematically dramatic. From the soundtrack choice (songs like “Just a Gigolo” during a kidnapping scene) to the strong internal performances by the cast, the movie heightens its intensity by not being intense. It certainly will remind you of the question, how well do you really know your neighbor?
The Clan opens Friday March 25 in DC.