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Mexico, 2008, 110 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Drama, Family Issues, Foreign
Program: Contemporary World CinemaLanguage: Spanish English Subtitles
DIRECTOR: Rodrigo Plá
Producer: Germán Méndez, Rodrigo PláEditor: Rodrigo Plá, Ana GarciaScreenwriter: Rodrigo Plá, Laura SantulloCinematographer: Serguei Saldívar TanakaPrincipal Cast: Diego Cataño, Eileen Yañez, Luis Fernando Peña
Forces converge to drive a pious father over the edge—and he takes his brood of eight with him, literally, moving to the desert where they endure a perverse, punishing existence.
With the birth of his son Aureliano, Elías (Mario Zaragoza) insists on a baptism at the risk of terrible reprisal during a savage period of religious persecution following the Mexican Revolution, when government troops regularly obliterated entire villages on the mere suspicion that they were helping counterrevolutionary forces. When his own town suffers the same fate due to his action, he is plagued by overwhelming guilt. Moved by a vision of God, he sets out on a trek into the desert, dragging what’s left of his family with him—including the sickly Aureliano, whom he carries in a glass case. In this stark landscape, fit for only the most unwavering ascetic, Elías forces his children to help him build a church in atonement. Meanwhile, he continues to imprison Aureliano behind glass to “protect” him from the touch of his siblings. As the children grow up and become independent, Elías slowly loses the autocratic hold he has over them and descends into madness. Ultimately, this allows Aureliano to emerge from his isolation—only to enter into the most unholy of bonds.
The allegory is telegraphed via images of altarpieces created by Aureliano, which highlight the film’s exploration of the dangers of religious fervor. Uruguayan-born director Rodrigo Plá (La Zona) has said he drew inspiration for The Desert Within from the diaries of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, whose own father prophesied that he would die young.
Consulate General of Mexico in Denver, Mexican Cultural Center Denver
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