Welcome, Violeta! (
Directed by Fernando Fraiha
Starring Débora Falabella, Darío Grandinetti )
Ana (Falabella) is a writer who is struggling to complete her new novella, “Violeta”. She has been invited to join a celebrated writing residency known as the “End of the World” which is based in an austere complex beside a lake and isolated amongst the snow and rocks of the Argentinian Andes mountain range. The leader of the retreat is the egotistical and unorthodox guide/mentor Holden who runs his groups as though he was leading a cult. Ana breaks through her writer’s block by following the demands of Holden and is in turn attracted to and then repelled by the man and his strategies. The dynamics of the group begins to fracture as truth and fiction begin to merge at the behest of the ogreish Holden.
This second feature by Fraiha bills itself as a psychological thriller and, though the performances by the main cast, notably the steely eyed Grandinetti, are intense and engaging, it is all too obvious to be in any way thrilling. Based on the Argentinian novel Mountain Range by Daniel Galeraby, the set-up and execution is mired in the literary and struggles to fly as a film. Though the spectacular surroundings and the dimly lit interiors go some way to coax the cinematic from the overly verbose script, the film mostly just about smoulders even when the somewhat intrusive score is clearly stating it is about to catch fire.
Director Fraiha has said that his experience with a similarly manipulative leader within an artists’ group informed his approach to this material. The film touches on truth and post-truth, on the manipulation of the unwitting and the railroading of the unwilling but somehow, and not for want of trying, it fails to really say anything new at all on its way to its entirely predictable denouement.
That said, the major problem with Welcome, Violeta! is that the entire supporting cast of characters, all aspiring, deluded or embittered writers, are so utterly loathsome that when bad things don’t happen to them it comes as a grave disappointment. For all his faults, Holden’s ability to keep these writers from completing their work would surely be a blessing.
Welcome, Violeta! premiered at the Brooklyn Film Festival