Lovely Assassins

By the time Fernando, the protagonist of Barbet Schroeder's new film Our Lady of the Assassins closes the window blinds that overlook the city of Medell'n, Colombia, we realize that the real main character of the film is not the protagonist, but the city itself. Medell'n is a hopeless, hellhole of a metropolis--very much representative of a nation that has been torn first by civil wars and more recently by the uncivil war on drugs.

Run by gangs of teenage killers, Medell'n exists on the edge of anarchy. Fernando (Germ?n Jaramillo) grew up here, but spent most of his life studying and writing abroad. Now in his late 50s, he has returned home, as he puts it, "to die." His first night back, while attending a party of a friend, he is introduced to Alexis (Anderson Ballesteros) a very young, very dangerous gang member from the streets. Fernando has money and Alexis has youth--the two quickly become lovers. The relationship quickly dissolves as Fernando realizes that you can take the boy out of streets, but you can't get the streets out of the boy.

Romance or no romance, Alexis continues killing people--those who bother him, those who try to kill him and occasionally those who deserve it. He exemplifies the circle of violence that is Medell'n. Fernando adapts quickly and rather unbelievably to this system of gang warfare. His angry preaching about the horrors of violence come and go--ripe with cliches--but once he realizes that "kill or be killed" is the law of the land, he rationalizes Alexis actions out of love. It's hokey but it works just enough to maintain the larger story about life in Colombia.

The performances are not hokey--Ballesteros and Jaramillo act like celluloid veterans, despite that this is the first feature film for either one. Even though the script gives us little, they paint an intimate portrait--whether they are in each other's arms at Fernando's apartment or strolling through the middle of Medell'n. Wisely, Schroeder permits his actors to move freely from moment to moment, creating a series of great one-on-one scenes, but not a great series. Each vignette tells the story of the city well, but altogether they leave us with unconnected characters and a sense of detachment, not to mention a sense of repetition. The violent homicides that punctuate the film's early scenes grow pedestrian as the film progresses. It's done in order to make a point about how daily life is in Columbia desensitizes one to violence, but it is hard to make that point to an audience that is collectively yawning every time another motorcycle-riding murderer drives on screen. Still, Our Lady of the Assassins provides a unique look at gay culture in Latin America, as well as life in a country that the civilized world is tearing apart.



Share and discuss “Lovely Assassins” on social media.