Whilst doctors and nurses proliferate as protagonists in features and series, paramedics aren’t afforded the same level of attention. Indeed, apart from the clunky comedies Mother, Jugs And Speed and Paramedics, and Martin Scorsese’s underrated Bringing Out The Dead on the big screen, and Emergency!, Casualty, Third Watch, Saved and Trauma on television, ambulance workers are often relegated to support roles in the endless array of medical-themed offerings (including all manner of movies, and programs such as E.R. and Nurse Jackie). In Pablo Trapero’s Carancho, the tide turns in favour of trauma professionals, on both sides of the hospital and legal divide. Starring The Secret In Their Eyes‘ Ricardo Darín and Lion’s Denproducer turned actress Martina Gusman, the 2010 Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard entrant and Argentinian submission for the best foreign language film accolade at the 83rd Academy Awards is a compelling and confronting dissection of the plight of paramedics that save the victims of automobile accidents in South America, and the attorneys that work the insurance system in the afflicted’s favour.
With 22 deaths per day, 683 per month, over 8,000 per year and 100,000 during the past decade, traffic altercations are decimating the population of Argentina, particularly those under the age of 35. At the same time, the compensation market is booming, with surviving participants and families of the deceased looking to claim monetary assistance for their pain and suffering. Alas, corruption pervades every aspect of the medical and judicial systems, with employees within both arenas forced to assimilate or antagonise. Doctor Luján (Gusman) and lawyer Sosa (Darin) think they’re doing neither, yet each is perpetuating compliance and resistance. The former, fresh to the city and filled with ideals after moving from the country, simply wishes to save lives, whilst the latter, a wisened veteran of the scene biding his time until he can move on, is just trying to help the needy navigate the complexities of insurance. However, Luján’s willingness to assist wherever she can brings her into contact with the seedy underbelly of the hospital, and Susa’s passivity to the inequities around him contributes to the continuation of unscrupulous practices. When their paths cross over a series of accidents, the unlikely duo progress from colleagues to companions, united by their similar standing. Yet, their actions have complex consequences, sending the unlikely lovers on a literal and figurative collision course.
Since the invention of motorised, road-based forms of transportation, car crashes have proven a prevailing source of human carnage. Carancho delves into the dark world that exists in the aftermath of automobile accidents, examining the splintering side-effects and powerful pain that resounds through various levels of society. From the beaten and the belligerent to the drunk and the disorderly, and the obliterated and accosted to the inconvenienced and unfortunate, those touched by traffic incidences are too numerous to count. By personalising and personifying their plight through the struggle for survival of the kindred spirit medic and bureaucrat drawn to make a difference yet surrounded by savagery, writer / director Trapero (Born And Bred) and his co-scribes Alejandro Fadel, Martín Mauregui and Santiago Mitre (all colleagues on Nómade) have crafted a compelling feature that connects on a personal level. With crisp, clear cinematography heightening the effect of the impressive point-of-view imagery, an overall style that pays homage to everything from the film noir efforts of the 1940s to the American new wave of the 1970s, nuanced, naturalistic performances from Gusman and Darin, and a social realism slant that showcases the depths of human misery, the depressing and devastating film that unravels is far from easy viewing. However, as the chronicle of like-minded individuals linked by their mutual relief weaves its way through the violence and retaliation that encompasses the harrowing hopelessness, the innovative and impeccably made crime drama of actions and consequences makes for a striking, sordid and ultimately substantial offering.
Carancho is currently screening in Australia as part of the Spanish Film Festival.