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New Release Review - MARSHLAND

Two detectives investigate the killing of schoolgirls in 1980 rural Spain.


Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Alberto Rodriguez

Starring: Javier Gutierrez, Raul Arevalo, Maria Varod


"I'm struggling to recall a thriller so content to display a lack of originality on the scale of Marshland. If you've seen Twin PeaksThe Killing, or any of the many Nordic Noirs that have gained prominence in the culture lately, none of the plot beats here will come as a surprise."



When Twin Peaks went off the air in the early '90s, a slew of TV shows like Northern Exposure and Picket Fences adopted its quirky small town milieu. Others were inspired by its supernatural aspect, chiefly the mammoth hit The X-Files. It's only in recent years however that we've seen TV shows and movies borrow its 'teenage girl murdered in a small town harbouring secrets' template. The US remake of Danish show The Killing shame-facedly stole the central plot and setting of Twin Peaks, simply replacing the show's surreal and quirky elements with a straight procedural drama. Now the Spanish thriller Marshland does essentially the same, albeit moving the action from the Pacific NorthWest to the Spanish deep south.
Set in the Andalucian marshlands in 1980, with Spain feeling its way into democracy, the film opens with the teaming of two detectives sent from Madrid to investigate the disappearance of a pair of teenage sisters. Juan (Javier Gutierrez) is an embittered veteran, not averse to applying violent tactics, while the younger Pedro (Raul Arevalo) represents the new emerging post-Franco Spain, an idealist. It's no surprise when the girls turn up dead, and as Juan and Pedro investigate the rural hamlet they uncover more than a few bugs living under its sun-baked stones.
I'm struggling to recall a thriller so content to display a lack of originality on the scale of Marshland. If you've seen Twin Peaks, The Killing, or any of the many Nordic Noirs that have gained prominence in the culture lately, none of the plot beats here will come as a surprise. Brothel on the edge of town? Check. The father of the victim knows more than he's letting on? Check. The school hunk is tied in with drug dealers? Check.
The one unique aspect of Alberto Rodriguez's film is its location. The Deep South is an area of Spain we rarely see on screen, and with its swamps and deserts, it's barely recognisable as Europe. The period setting however adds very little beyond clapped out Citroens, sweaty moustaches and the odd reference to the recent Fascist past. With little original to offer viewers, it's not worth getting bogged down in Marshland.



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