By Irina Pino
HAVANA TIMES – When I went to the Chaplin movie theater to watch Nido de Mantis, the latest movie from director Arturo Soto (Amor Vertical, La noche de los inocentes, Boccaccerias habaneras), I wasn’t expecting it to be anything special. After the movie finished, I realized that it is just one of the so many useless movies in Cuban film today.
Set in Havana and a rural town, it tells us the story of a love triangle between a young guajira and two men from her childhood. One of them is the sugar mill manager’s son, and the other one is a poor boy. The story unfolds from 1950 until 1994, year of the Rafter Crisis and the mass exodus.
It begins with the discovery of a triple homicide: three deaths, two men and a woman lying in a bed with gunshot wounds from a rifle.
Narrated from the police’s point of view, the plot goes down the normal police investigation road. In this movie it is carried out by an attorney assigned to the case, and a young lawyer who has just graduated.
Then the movie twists and turns in time to tell the risky love story between the three leading characters: The mysterious girl, the bourgeois man and the brigade member.
The bourgeois man is a wink at Sergio, the hero from the classic movie Memorias del Subdesarrollo, by Tomas Gutierrez Alea (Titon); the kind of guy who refuses to leave his country and ends up vegetating and living off his income in an elegant apartment in Havana. A scathing critique of the Revolution and the changes that came after 1959.
Here, in this movie, he is just a romantic who fell in love with an almost illiterate woman, later adjusting to the social situation, even working in a sugar cane field cutting sugar cane. Absurd, right?
The other guy in the triangle is an insatiable ladies’ man, alcoholic and troublemaker who becomes a photographer.
Both of them are strict stereotypes, the actors playing them can’t save their characters no matter how hard they try and they become cliches: going to the extreme to win the love of the same woman.
She is blurred and bland as a character, who I believe doesn’t have this sensual air to attract these men and so much of a commotion.
According to Cuban film critic Rolando Perez Betancourt, this movie is Arturo Soto’s most ambitious endeavor yet. This might be true because the director has really tried to experiment with black and white, seeking out artistic photographic shots, unexpected ellipses, and other resources that endorse the movie, if it were to excel in all of these points (only the beautiful score by composer Beatriz Corona saves it).
However, it gets lost in a false argument that reminds us of Garcia Marquez’s aesthetic fused with Alejo Carpentier and the worst Mexican soap opera.
For the most daring of you, go and watch it and spend two hours bored, in a spacious movie theater with hardly any viewers. It will be screened at movie theaters in the capital for a few weeks.