Director: Pablo Trapero
Writers: Julian Loyola, Esteban Student, Pablo Trapero
Starring: Guillermo Francella, Peter Lanzani, Lili Popovich
Country: Argentina, Spain
Running Time: 108 min
BBFC Certificate: 15
The Clan is an Argentinian biographical crime thriller telling the story of the Puccio family, who used their connections to the police and government to hide a series of high-stakes kidnappings. The film frames itself as a daring and dramatic thriller, but at it’s heart, there is a great focus placed on the inner-workings of the family. In this sense it’s almost a sort of very very dark and disturbing family drama, which actually suits the subject matter down to the ground.
For a foreign film, I think The Clan had quite a western feel to it. For reference, I think the same thing about the Israeli crime thriller ‘Big Bad Wolves’. It has clearly taken some inspiration and reference from slick Hollywood crime and gangster films, but Pablo Trapero has also obviously let loose with his own vision for a well thought out and stylised film. I have no problem with it referencing some Hollywood favourites, the crime/gangster genre carries some of my favourite films and Trapero’s gentle nods in their direction were part of the reason I was drawn to it in the first place.
To put the films style into words, it was bold and it was slick. The colour palette was saturated with heavy contrast and the lighting for many scenes had clearly been placed to reveal the scariest parts of faces; the mise-en-scene was fantastic, even down to the casting. When talking about the look of the film, it would be an injustice to leave out Guillermo Francella, who took on the role of Arquímedes Puccio – head of the family. The character of Arquímedes has a slicked back, ice-white head of hair and piercingly pale blue eyes. It is terrifying, there is no other way to describe it. Placed in an otherwise warm and saturated scene, Guillermo Francella looked like the most cold-hearted man in history.
The film does seem like it’s juggling two agendas; the kidnappings, and the family. To begin with this works to the films advantage; it puts us in the position of Arquímedes, who is clearly struggling to run the kidnapping business from his home in a way that won’t damage his family. It helps us to empathise with him despite the fact that as the film progresses, it becomes clear that he’s a pretty diabolical man. Unfortunately I think the two agendas lead to the film lacking focus. Where I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of family drama and violent crime thriller, for me it seemed like some of the important details were skipped over, and we arrived at the end all too suddenly. This was a surprise for me, as I find that many biographical films tend to do the opposite, cramming in too much and creating a meandering film that could easily be an hour shorter. With The Clan, I would have liked an extra 20 minutes to flesh out some detail and really build tension. Reflecting on what happened in the film, the final hostage situation was very dramatic, it was a lengthy downward spiral for the Puccio’s – one that few of them really knew was happening – but it didn’t feel like that whilst watching it, which meant that the climatic ending didn’t receive the build up that it deserved.
I’ve given The Clan 3.5, but it is very close to a 4. It’s certainly a fantastic biography whether you are aware of the Puccio family history or not, it effortlessly straddles genres and is a quirky thriller with some edgy black comedy, I just wish it could have been a touch longer. You can buy The Clan, equipped with a making-of and interviews with the cast and director on DVD and Blu-ray from October 17th.