Morality to mortality

Sean McGrath

Our Lady of the Assassins

Directed by Barbet Schroeder

(German Jaramillo, Anderson Ballesteros, Juan David Restrepo, Manuel Busquets)

Rated: R

That’s it: I’ve finally scratched “Mendellin, Colombia” off my list of honeymoon ideas. Barbet Schroeder exploits the inconceivable reality of South American’s drug capital in his film, La Virgen de los Sicarios (Our Lady of the Assassins).

Your protagonist and mine, Fernando, returns home to Mendellin after a life spent as a writer in much calmer lands. Now, he must adjust to his new surroundings, and does so through the help of a young gang member, Alexis. The two become lovers and walk the streets together as Alexis explains the violence, the misery and the hell that has become their community.

The city has turned its inhabitants into complete unremorseful incarnations. A doctor angrily hollers, “How dare you bring a corpse to a hospital!” If a guy is playing his music too loud at night and keeping you up, what do you do? Shoot him. That simple. No confrontation, no complaining – just off the guy in the broad daylight. A woman screaming over a murdered youth is muffled with Fernando’s rationale, “Where do you think you are? This isn’t Switzerland, lady.”

Imparting the wisdom of his life to Alexis, Fernando cannot seem to muzzle the murderous tendencies of his 17-year-old lover. In the wake of drug lord Pablo Escobar’s death, hundreds upon hundreds of barely post-pubescent teens lurk the streets in a cycle of vendettas.

This film is more than a simple story: It’s a depressing, violent, inhuman portrait of arguably Earth’s worst city. Apologies to anyone from Mendellin, but where else are there signs posted on hills stating “Please no dumping of corpses?” This movie is hard to take. It hits hard with an almost unrepentant punch.

In Schroeder’s take on the book by Fernando Vallejo, gratuity is embraced, not spared. Our Lady of the Assassins will desensitize you and introduce to a world you wished didn’t exist. Perhaps it’s a world you don’t want to know about. Shuck your feelings in the lobby.

-Sean McGrath


Our Lady of the Assassins opens today at the Lagoon Cinema.