William Vega makes an assured directorial début through “La Sirga” [Eng. Title: The Towrope], an allegorical thriller-drama set in a off-season tourist spot by a great lake, high in the Andean region of Colombia.
A young Alicia (Joghis Arias) arrives fatigued at her estranged uncle Oscar’s inn (La Sirga), after her village is destroyed and parents are massacred, in what appears to be a localised guerilla conflict. Oscar (Julio César Roble) reluctantly let’s her stay, who in return will help towards getting the dilapidated inn into shape for the upcoming ‘tourist’ season. A significant portion of the film is taken up in this endeavour – Alicia ripping away rotten floorboards and replacing them the best she could, varnishing bannisters, decorating the place with flowering plants, fixing leaky roofs and the like. She’s helped by Flora (Floralba Achicanoy), the only other employee, while Oscar tends to a trout farm set up by a collective on the other side of the lake. Good intentions all around, even if a touch futile.
The atmosphere, with its mist-shrouded landscape and grey skies richly illustrate the conflict hidden from view, of the pervading sense of impending danger, of the conflict spilling over into La Cocha too, the region where the lake is located. The point is underscored when the film opens with the eerie image of a dead man tied high to a pole, sticking out from the marshes. An air of menace is introduced in the form of Freddy (Heraldo Romero), Oscar’s son who mysteriously surfaces halfway through the film, and also by the way the father-son duo secretly peep into Alicia’s room when she’s changing. Against this backdrop, young boatman Mirichis (David Fernando Guacas), a migrant himself, takes a liking to Alicia – and tries to persuade her to leave with him.
There are several allegorical elements used in the film, like Alicia’s sleepwalking, the crumbling inn, and the beautiful but sad landscape in itself. The austere cinematography has a dream-like character to it, while sound effects often fill the gaps, by showing what the images don’t. There is also a mystical quality to the film and its locations, explained by the director in the interview accompanying the DVD. It is reminiscent of European films from a different era, and the only close Latin American equivalent I could think of at the moment of writing is Fernando Eimbcke’s Mexican film Lake Tahoe – beautiful in its simplicity, and technical finesse. Highly Recommended Viewing..!
The Nudity: Joghis Seudin Arias
The film features a couple of brief instances of nudity when Oscar, and later his son Freddy, secretly watch Alicia undressing.