The Aura (Bielinsky, 2005)

Director Fabian Bielinsky died last year of a heart attack at the young age of 47, and his loss is an extremely sad one for the world of film. Bielinsky left behind two features, both heist films in one way or another, both equally obsessed with the smoke and mirrors of identity and expectations (and the destruction of those expectations). The first, Nine Queens, is a talky and often brilliant game of words between con men, and the other, The Aura, is a much slower paced but equally keen meditation on male aggression and it’s various modes of visual representation. In The Aura, Bielinsky’s epileptic Taxidermist hero is obsessed with committing the perfect crime, but doesn’t have the courage or will to actually pull the trigger. Instead, he imagines what he would do in a hypothetical situation, Bielinsky using a beautifully elastic steady cam to trace the imagined robbery giving the viewer a sense of the shifting sensation the Taxidermist feels when thinking of crime. Later, he goes on a hunting trip with a friend and accidently kills another hunter, an action that has vast ramifications for both his own trajectory and those around him. This action leads the taxidermist into this mysterious man’s life, whom he discovers was planning a daring armored car robbery and eventually enables the Taxidermist to flush out his obsessions with crime and manipulations. The plot drags a bit in the middle, but for the most part, Bielinsky’s Taxidermist is in constant, unseen flux, trying to figure out the best way to play the game, commit the perfect crime, and get away clean. His epileptic spells create another, more convoluted plot device, but are meant to be something more transcendent. He describes the spells as sublime shifts in consciousness, where his mind opens up and lets scents, noises and images overwhelm his body, causing momentary blackouts. With this is mind, the Taxidermist’s arrogance is stunning and his final realization of how bad the situation has become is somewhat moot, but The Aura is more about atmosphere (both physical and mental) than about genre or story. In fact, the genre elements were the most basic parts of Bielinsky’s otherwise sophisticated character study. Probably the most telling scene in the film plays out toward the end when the Taxidermist, driving the pickup truck of the man he killed, watches as that man’s pet wolf runs through the woods alongside the road. The Taxidermist is surrounded by the aura of the man he’s killed, and Bielinsky’s forces his character to face his actions. The ending is haunting, but at the same time somewhat of a letdown, considering all that happens narratively beforehand. The Aura rides the genre aesthetics of the neo-noir, but with a spiritual tone bent on revealing the inconsistencies within that genre in terms of male supremacy. The Taxidermist goes from pawn to king with one rifle bullet, but realizes first hand such a shift doesn’t occur without elements of identity crashing down, as the final zoom shot suggests with burning intensity.- Screened at the 2007 San Diego Latino Film Festival

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