After the pandemonium of the other Arturo Sotto films shown today, Mantis Nest came as a bit of a surprise. A more or less straightforward murder mystery, with a love triangle and a noirish bent.
It’s bloody brilliant too. Really compelling, keeps you gripped.
Elena has, since childhood, inspired the love of two men, Tomas a humble worker and revolutionary, and Emilio who comes from a family of wealthy, middle-class American emigrees. Love and fortune keep them running into each other over the years, forcing Elena to choose and choose again.
The movie itself is set in contemporary Cuba when it was made in the 90s, and Elena’s story is told in flashback over the course of the film. Because… dun dun duh!… all three of them appear to have been murdered by their daughter Azucar. Or perhaps by Elena in a murder-suicide designed to put an end to their heartbreak once and for all.
Elena is clearly an allegory for Cuba, being torn between two vastly different men who love her dearly. The constant interruption of the war as a seperator of the couple(s) makes clear that this tug of war between the different ideologies is for possession of Elena, the island.
But Azucar also becomes a symbol of Cuba, taking after her mother, but the Cuba of the next generation, the kids born after the revolution and wars have been settled. Elena grows desperate to spare her daughter the torment that she has perpetually faced.
Stylistically smooth, with humour lifting the drama, the writing and performances make believable the idea that a woman could keep two warring lovers in close quarters, where hatred as well as love means they can’t leave, turn away, or accept defeat.
Also, I take back everything I said about the French being over-sexed, the Cubans have them beat. From watching this movie, you’d think that their biggest gripe against the Americans was how often that nuisance keeps them from fucking.
Thoroughly enjoyable movie, Cuban noir with the classic femme fatale.