The mounting is Tierra del Fuego, nan southernmost extremity of nan Americas, often called el fin del mundo, and though it is 1901 and nan opening of a caller century, it surely feels for illustration nan extremity of nan world. It is successful this emotion — nan immersive sonic and ocular textures of a past successful which beauty and brutality threat and snarl astatine each other’s heels — that head Felipe Gálvez’ debut characteristic excels. “The Settlers,” based connected his 2018 short movie of nan aforesaid name, is simply a heady, opaque western, slow to operation but vicious arsenic a rattlesnake erstwhile it does. It marks a highly promising debut, albeit 1 marred by speech and performances that are not ever adjacent to nan tectonic gravitas to which this communicative of assemblage atrocity aspires.
The level successful these contested lands is established early, and sitting astatine its apical is ruthless landowner José Menéndez (Alfredo Castro, reliably charismatic but underused). Menéndez needs to found a waste and acquisition way truthful that livestock tin beryllium efficiently delivered from his immense ranches crossed chaotic terrain to nan Atlantic, and not only does he not attraction astir collateral damage, he almost explicitly states that nan much Indigenous group slaughtered on nan way, nan better. (The Selk’nam, autochthonal to this region, were wholly wiped retired during this play of Chilean history.)
Menéndez chooses gruff Lieutenant MacLennan (Mark Stanley), a Scottish serviceman of nan British army, to lead nan expedition, but forces him to bring connected wild-card Bill (Benjamin Westfall), a Texan mercenary who “can smell a Native from miles away,” though he looks nary excessively fragrant himself. Finally, mixed-race guideline Segundo (Camilo Arancibia) is plucked from a concatenation gang, connected relationship of his superior marksmanship skills, to travel them. On their stocky horses, plodding done majestic, forbidding landscapes, pinch MacLennan and Bill sniping astatine each different and Segundo silently looking on, this could beryllium a John Ford movie, pinch a motley trio connected nan verge of immoderate manly alliance.
But, hacked into chapters fixed lurid crimson titles — The King of White Gold; Half Blood; The Ends of nan Earth; The Red Pig — this is nary classical western. Galves’ script, co-written pinch Antonia Girardi, is acold much nihilistic successful its philosophies. Where nan bonds of astatine slightest companionship mightiness beryllium expected to form, alternatively we get further mistrust and betrayal, amid bouts of grotesque barbarity that let Bill to enlarge his trophy collection: a grisly drawstring of severed quality ears edged successful achromatic blood. Even Segundo, nominally nan astir sympathetic character, is forced into a benignant of complicity successful immoderate of these crimes, doubtless accurately allegorizing nan plight of galore an Indigenous personification trying to past nan relentless onslaught of invasion, but further contributing to an ambiance of despair and depravity.
Every interaction, nary matter pinch whom, inevitably culminates successful violence, often of a intersexual nature. Even an initially amicable gathering pinch a unit mapping nan Chile-Argentina frontier ends up successful a wrestling lucifer that goes excessively far. The brutality is seldom schematic but truthful evocative that nan weight of it infects moreover nan film’s slower, ostensibly much serene passages pinch dense dread. This each makes it jarring erstwhile scenes of Bill and MacLennan talking ringing false: Their English speech has a stilted, non-native-speaker cadence and neither character is rather capable to encompass nan different flavors of masculine rage and madness that their characters represent. We spot them do and opportunity unspeakable things, but someway neither is arsenic frightening arsenic nan acold glitter successful Alfredo’s Castro’s eyes, when, aft a seven-year jump forward, we return to Menéndez arsenic he is being interviewed by authorities charismatic Vicuña (Marcelo Alonso), who is investigating nan worst of nan band’s atrocities.
But if nan storytelling sometimes wavers, nan trade ne'er does, and nan world-building present is immaculately eerie. Harry Allouche’s people keeps gait pinch nan disintegrating mood, nan plucked strings and crude drumbeats of his often atonal compositions creating a philharmonic scenery arsenic bleak and unusual arsenic this desolate agelong of country. Simone D’Arcangelo’s cinematography is exceptional throughout, truthful haunting and spare that “The Settlers” almost classifies arsenic a shade western, peculiarly successful 1 breathtaking series successful which a massacre is someway made mythical by being wrapped successful heavy mist. This series is emblematic of nan very champion of Galves’ flawed but striking first feature, evoking a powerful image of untrammelled, genocidal colonialist fury reduced to its basest, barest essentials: vicious men drunk connected nan thought of their unearned superiority, flailing astir murderously successful nan fog of a warfare only they are fighting.