Mario Guerra, Neisy Alpizar, Laura Molina, Jorge Molina, Jorge Enrique Caballero
José Luis Aparicio
"Tundra" an Unforgettable, Mesmerizing Short
There's an infection of sorts that permeates every frame of Tundra, a 30-minute Cuban short fresh off a Sundance Film Fest screening that practically aches within its cinematic bones as it tells the story of Walfrido Larduet (Mario Guerra), a lonely electrical inspector whose dreams of a Red Woman dominate his thoughts and immerse themselves within his daily actions. He feels that she is near and over the course of a work day will follow her trail as he travels through the suburbs of an infested city.
Weaving together a tapestry of horror, fantasy, neo-noir, and psychosocial examination, Tundra is a wonder to behold as driven by Guerra's intuitive, hypnotic performance as Walfrido as he resigns himself to the cultural wasteland living within him and that surrounds him. There's never any doubt that Tundra is making a statement, a powerful one, clinging to the cinematic worlds of the likes of Cronenberg, Argento, and Lynch rather than the usual neorealism we so often see from Cuban filmmakers. Described by its team as part of the "New Wave of Cuban cinema," Tundra is unafraid to look at the darker side of this island's life and the paralyzing impact of living in a place where fears are fueled and desires never satisfied. Cuba here is, in essence, a monster that lies across the island's landscape while also simultaneously dwelling within the heart of Cubans.
Tundra is enveloped by this deep sense of resignation, less driven by narrative than by the atmosphere that tells an even deeper and more meaningful story. Music by Rafael de Jesus Ramirez is jarring yet intimate. Gabriel Aleman's lensing is unflinching as it surveys the human spirit as much as it does the landscape. The film's ensemble cast is uniformly strong in powerfully bringing to life Carlos Melian's sparse yet unforgettable script that will be so rich and so intense that even those of us, myself included, forced to read the subtitles will forget we are doing so.
There are films that demand honesty and Tundra does so in a refreshingly uncompromising way. It's an absolutely wondrous film, a film both deep in meaning and exuding a full-on sensory experience. If you get a chance, definitely check it out.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic