Film review: “Los Duenos” (“The Owners”, ARG 2013)

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With “Los Dueños”, the Argentinian directors Ezequiel Radusky and Agustín Toscano have created a humoresque and satirical comedy that describes the conflict lines still present in Argentina’s post-colonial class society. The movie was released on October 27, 2013, at the VIENNALE, Vienna’s best known and most popular international film festival, before it will be featured at the AFI Fest in Hollywood on November 11, 2013.

The only setting where the story takes place is a hacienda, owned by an elderly man and run by his son-in-law, who takes his responsibilities more or less seriously. When the proprietor’s second daughter, Pía (Rosario Bléfari), arrives from Buenos Aires at the estate to visit her sister, things slowly start to get out of control – especially for the domestic staff (an older couple and their son Sergio). So far, the servants have enjoyed the pleasures and benefits of the real owners’ absence, as they often sneak into the house to live a life they can never afford because of their social status. But Pia’s presence alone seems to call for a change…

With “The Owners”, Radusky and Toscano succeed in taking the viewers behind the scenes of what appears to be an ordinary employer-employee relationship in the countryside. Although Pia, a middle-aged, unfulfilled and calculating business woman, is the protagonist in the movie, the plot mainly spirals around the three servants and their interaction with the old and new owners. Pia’s arrival stirs up a lingering conflict with her more attractive sister, whom she seeks to outdo and replace by becoming the new manager of the family estate.

The movie is interesting as it addresses many aspects in very strong but subtle ways. On the one hand, the actors transcend hierarchic class and gender barriers by breaking social taboos in secret. On the other hand, the directors play with an erotic dimension that climaxes in Pia’s affair with her sister’s husband and her not very successful attempt to conquer Sergio, who often spied on her sister when she swam in the pool or took a shower.

Finally, Radusky and Toscano are telling a story that shows how a personal conflict – one between two unequal sisters – can affect the lives of outsiders without actually changing them at all. Pia’s arrival at the hacienda may have caused some emotional turmoil and surprises. However, even though some lines have been crossed, things stay the same for the servant family. They still sneak into their owner’s luxury home – and this despite the furniture that Pia “donated” to them while refurnishing her sister’s old rooms in the house.

© Review by Stephan Haderer

Release: VIENNALE, Vienna, 27 Oct 2013
Next featuring: AFI FEST, Hollywood, 11 Nov 2013

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About stephanhaderer

A traveler for life, anthropologist, philanthropist, hobby journalist, political analyst, writer, screenwriter, on the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom & harmony.
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One Response to Film review: “Los Duenos” (“The Owners”, ARG 2013)

  1. Lady C says:

    Sounds like a very interesting movie! I’ll be sure to put it on my ‘must see’ list. I love movies set in South America and this one sounds very daring.

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