OUR LADY OF THE ASSASSINS is a thought-provoking, sometimes questionable work from Barbet Schroeder. This unique film is based on the novel La Virgen de los Sicarios by Fernando Vallejo.
Shot on high-definition video in Columbia, the movie has a unique and at first, almost jarring visual quality. It must be said that it takes a significant amount of time to adjust to this unconventional appearance. The story surrounds the struggles of a world-weary, middle-aged grammarian named Fernando. He returns to his home, Medellin, to find it a scene of chaos where lawlessness and murder are a way of life. Increasingly tired of the oppressive nature of modern life, Fernando (Jaramillo) finds solace in a relationship with troubled gun-toting youth Alexis (Ballesteros). The two lovers grow closer as Fernando is exposed to Alexisís violent world, in which minor disputes are resolved through murder.
One of the greatest problems exhibited in the movie is the lack of character depth. It is unclear why Fernando has returned home and why he has such a hopeless outlook on life. His motivation is in question throughout the course of the film. Even the emotional relationship between the teenager and despondent Fernando is a little unclear. Why are they so drawn to each other, for what emotional reasons?
The beautiful city of Medellin provides the backdrop for scenes of graphic violence. During the course of the movie, Alexis proceeds to kill at least eight people at point- blank range. As Fernando observes, such events are merely part and parcel of life in a city where drug trafficking is a major concern.
Many interesting issues arise from the opposing worldviews of the two central characters. How can one live in a state of lawlessness, killing anything that presents opposition? But then how can one live a constrained life in which the actions of others limit oneís happiness? Such things are illuminated by the charactersí philosophical struggles.
Even with such intriguing aspects, many things undermine the power of the film. The acting is stiff and often amateurish, especially that of young Alexis. The constant barrage of blood and graphic violence is also a little hard to take in. Most strikingly, there is an almost disjointed feeling to the film, as if events and characters do not have a sense of rhythm or flow.
OUR LADY OF THE ASSASSINS gives an interesting insight into the struggles of a man faced with a society he has come to despise. It is disappointing that the film doesnít delve farther, to provide more of an exploration into the character, his motivations and the life-changing nature of his experiences.