In 1980 as Spain is in transition from decades of totalitarian fascist rule to a new democracy two disgraced cops are despatched to the backwaters of Andalusia’s Guadalquivir Marshes to investigate the disappearance of two teenage sisters to get them out of the way. idealist Pedro (Raul Arevalo) had the temerity to criticise the military and the older partner Juan (Javier Gutierrez) has a very dark past in General Franco’s secret police. The missing girls are sixteen year old Estrella and 15-year-old Carmen who were last seen getting into an unknown car.
When the bodies of the girls turn up in a ditch the detectives discover they are not the first youngsters to vanish and find themselves chasing down a serial killer long protected by a corrupt, but fading political elite. their only clue a partially burnt film negative.
Marshland is a thoroughly gripping detective thriller, tautly paced and redolent with the sweaty atmosphere of the Andalusian marshes. From my own recollection of family holidays the production design and wardrobe are spot on for 1980s Spain and the film perfectly catches the aura of right-wing threat that still pervaded the country, Franco had only died in 1975, the new democratic government still had many powerful critics in particular the army and the Guardia Civil, and there were a lot of folks with plenty of nasty deeds to hide as this movie demonstrates.
What really makes the film is the absolutely stunning photography of the marshes by cinematographer Alex Catalan, both on the ground and even more spectacularly from above. Curiously the effect of the cinematography showing how just vast and flat the marshlands are reminded me a lot of the photography of the bleak empty Skane countryside from the Swedish Wallander series.
A beautifully shot, tightly paced police procedural with dark political overtones and a grizzly crime I give Marshland a 666/666
Marshland goes on theatrical release in the UK on Friday 7 August