Pictures of the Soul

(Fotos del Almos)

(Argentinean)

Reportedly the first Argentinean film to candidly tackle the issue of AIDS, Pictures of the Soul is nonetheless a soft, rather plain melodrama about the psychological effects of the lethal virus on one heterosexual couple.

The picture's middlebrow sensibility and overly simplistic narrative should make this populist morality tale better suited for the tube–and video–especially in Latin America, where popular culture has not addressed the AIDS problem as extensively as in Europe or the U.S.

Pablo (Jorge Diez) and Mariana (Maria Laura Leon) are beautiful, affluent professionals about to be married. All seem well for the young urban lovers until Pablo finds out from his doctor, during a routine check-up, that he's HIV-Positive. The traumatic news utterly shocks and devastates the ambitious young man, as he claims to have been monogamous to Mariana.

Expecting their first baby, Mariana walks out on him, though she decides to take a risk and keep the baby. Overwhelmed by his loss, and unable to cope with the realities of the debilitating disease, Pablo sinks deeper and deeper into despair.

Tale's middle section intercuts between Pablo's search for a new meaning in his existence, and Mariana's finding some solace in her theatrical work with students. The turning point in his plight comes in the form of an unexpected gift–the camera of his deceased father–which brings a new focus and a new direction into his life. He begins taking photographs of unadorned street life, inhabited by ordinary, working class people.

Aptly titled, if also too literal, Pictures of the Soul is the kind of melodrama in which individuals, afflicted with a horrible disease, suddenly decide to change their lives and become better human beings. Indeed, Pablo can't face anymore the greed, decadence and dishonesty of his previous job as an executive of a profitable ad agency. He wants to reform, show more compassion for those around him, primarily his sympathetic uncle (Jorge Mayor) and loving mother (China Zorrilla), who's rapidly aging but is unaware of his condition.

Both Jorge Diez and Maria Laura Leon acquit themselves with honest and sensitive performances. Marking the feature directorial debut of the 24-year-old Diego Musiak, pic is agreeably helmed and shot. However, the obviousness of the well-intentioned material, with every scene telegraphing a life-affirming message, leaves nothing for the audience to do but nod their heads with approval of the film's humanistic concerns.

An Adagio Srl production. Produced, directed by Diego Musiak. Screenplay, Irene Dubrovsky. Camera (color), Carlos Torlaschi; editor, Alejandro Parysow; music, Silvio Rodriguez; costume design, Mariana Jongebard de Boer; sound, Carlos Caleca.

Running time: 80 min.

Pablo…………Jorge Diez
Mariana…..Maria Lura Leon
Esthercita…China Zorrilla
Uncle………..Jorge Mayor