This rarely-seen Argentinian feature debut by Hugo Santiago is an unclassifiable eye-opener—a political ‘sci-fi’ piece with cool Melville crime-thriller vibes.
Dir. Hugo Santiago
1969 | Argentina | Drama | 126 mins | 1.66:1 | Spanish
Not rated – likely to be PG13 for some mature themes
Cast: Olga Zubarry, Lautaro Murua, Juan Carlos Paz
Plot: The city of Aquilea has fallen under siege by sinister forces. A group of middle-aged men, led by a somewhat older man, resolve to mount clandestine resistance to the invaders and defend their city.
Awards: Won Special Mention (Locarno); Official Selection (Cannes)
Subject Matter: Moderate – Resistance, Politics
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse
Some critics have regarded Hugo Santiago as Argentinian cinema’s best-kept secret. If his first feature is anything to go by, it may not be too far from the truth. With Invasion, which has long been unavailable, Santiago seems to have discovered a new filmmaking style that is anything but classifiable.
Seemingly inspired by the conventions-pushing French New Wave, and the paranoia of American sci-fi flicks of the ‘50s and ‘60s, plus a potent dose of cool Jean-Pierre Melville crime-thriller vibes, Invasion feels like a mishmash of different genres, yet its style is so singularly itself.
One might call the film political ‘sci-fi’, with themes of revolution and resistance at the forefront of its mystifying narrative. As the story goes: a group of resistance fighters are battling a lost cause as the ‘invaders’ (looking no different from any other human being) threaten to take over the city of Aquilea (a fictional Buenos Aires). Through strategic guerrilla tactics, the resistance attempts to wrestle control back.
The most remarkable thing about Invasion is its ambiguity—because firstly, we aren’t sure if the invaders are really human beings (for all we know, they might be aliens in disguise; Santiago’s use of strange, sometimes eerie, sound effects also heightens this sci-fi trope), and secondly, we aren’t sure which is the good or bad side, politically-speaking.
But one thing’s for sure: Invasion shows us how it feels like to be a resistance fighter hoping to disrupt a new revolution. It is quite incredible that a fragmented, roughly-edited and filmed piece can feel immersive. There is far more action—yes, gunfights and car chases—than its avant-garde style might suggest, which makes it such a fascinating piece.