Monos (2019) – Alejandro Landes (Colombian entry for the best international feature film – Oscars)

I normally reserve my movie reviews for Friday’s-finest, but I hastily brought this one forward since I just saw Monos at the cinema and it has been selected as the Colombian entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards. What made me run literally 5 minutes up the road to see this today was the following article from BBC:  Ten films to watch this September:

The Guardian says that (Monos -monkeys) “This overpoweringly tense and deeply mad thriller is … something between Apocalypse Now, Lord of the Flies and Embrace of the Serpent”. If that weren’t recommendation enough, Guillermo del Toro is quoted in the trailer deeming Monos “mesmerising”, and co-writer-director, Alejandro Landes, “a powerful new voice in cinema”. Released 13 September in the US.

Plot – Wikipedia: In a remote mountaintop setting somewhere in Latin America, a rebel group of teenage commandos perform military training exercises while watching over a prisoner (Julianne Nicholson) and a conscripted milk cow for a shadowy force known only as “The Organization.” After an ambush drives the squadron into the jungle, fracturing their intricate bond, the mission begins to collapse.

Monos is a very disturbing film to watch. I found it vexatious seeing adolescents conduct themselves as they do in this movie. Some might find it sexually exploitative even though it is most likely an accurate reflection of how teenagers under the same duress might react. This is Colombia and only yesterday Ivan Marquez an ex FARC rebel issued a call to arms. Kids like these; even much younger have for years been enticed and many times coerced into forming allegiance with similar renegade groups. As much as Monos at the surface level for international viewers may seem a fantasy, believe me it isn’t.

Monos is definitely a movie to be seen in the cinema since what impressed me most was the hypnotic soundtrack and spectacular cinematography. I can’t think of another recent movie where the soundtrack has played a more pivotal role and been so effective. Regarding filming..If you enjoyed Alejandro G. IñárrituThe Revenent’s ‘stream of consciousness’ cinematography then you will certainly admire this one.

Monos is a comparatively short thriller film and when the credits rolled I was left fixated on the screen trying to process that which had occurred, but indebted all the same for this jarring movie experience.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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13 comments on “Monos (2019) – Alejandro Landes (Colombian entry for the best international feature film – Oscars)
  1. selizabryangmailcom says:

    I LOVED The Revenent. So I probably would enjoy this one too. Although it does sound very disturbing.

    • Hi Stacey. I loved it too! Leonardo hit the ball outta the park with that performance. I hope ‘Monos’ gets good exposure in the US. I’ll probably see it again in the cinema so I can pick up more the second time. Obviously Spanish isn’t my mother tongue and there weren’t any subtitles. Let me know what you think if you end up seeing it. Have a fantastic day!

  2. selizabryangmailcom says:

    Wait a minute–you saw it in Spanish without subtitles?!

    • I live in Colombia and naturally they play Spanish speaking in movies without subtitles. I understand Spanish for the most part. I speak it all day. The only time I use English is here in my blog.

      • selizabryangmailcom says:

        Okay, slowly filling in the pieces. I knew you were in Colombia but I guess I thought English might be available in special showings or small theaters. How long did it take you to speak fluently? I have a friend who moved to Brazil who didn’t know one word of Spanish or Portuguese, something I think is extremely brave and I admire greatly.

      • The majority of English speaking movies are converted into Spanish speaking (voice-over). In certain sessions they leave the original audio and put Spanish subtitles. I obviously prefer to watch the latter. Spanish speaking movies like ‘Monos’ do not include subtitles unless another language is spoken such as with the ‘Roma’ release last year where an Indigenous dialect was used in parts.
        I have lived in Colombia for 10 years. I wouldn’t consider myself fluent until I have reached an advanced level. I am at an intermediate advanced level B2 in Spanish. Linguistics has never been my strong suit, but I understand over 90% of what I hear and converse whereby people understand me. But there remains room for improvement regarding my pronunciation and grammar.

  3. selizabryangmailcom says:

    Gotcha. B2 sounds pretty good to me.
    I studied Spanish from age 9 to about 19 and at one point could speak, read, and write it.
    I feel bad that I didn’t keep it up at that level, but I still can understand people (if they don’t talk too fast), so I can still communicate, which is important here in L.A. where so many Latinos live.

  4. selizabryangmailcom says:

    Yeah, that makes sense, especially this part: “Bungled verb tenses, prepositions, plurals, and articles are a natural, even essential, part of the learning process.”
    I’m not fluent or proficient. I can just more or less understand. You’re probably a lot further along due to having the practice of speaking it every day.

    BTW, saw The Phantom Thread while I was off work this past week!
    It looked beautiful and of course the acting was fantastic and the soundtrack wonderful, but I was surprised coming away from it with the realization that I didn’t like either Daniel Day’s character or the woman who was his muse. Which means they did a great job at making their dysfunctional characters come alive. I can see the arena they’re playing in: I wrote a short story about a sculpture who always knows when he’s about to create something because his female muse shows up, and I suppose my character doesn’t have the most pleasant personality in the world either. And his muse is kind of an untethered floaty California type.

    So I get it! But I definitely disliked both the Phantom Thread characters in the end. But I liked the movie a lot, regardless.

    • I’m glad you liked the movie. If I remember rightly, I too didn’t find the characters endearing the first time I saw it, but I warmed to them after repeated viewings. I find Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies more enjoyable after subsequent viewings when I feel attuned where he is leading us. The actress who played Reynold’s sister stole every scene she was in. Wonderful performance.
      That short story sounds intriguing! Is it available on your blog? I would love to read it.
      I just got back from seeing ‘Monos’ again, but this time with a Colombian friend who filled me in on some minor plot points. I appreciated it more the second time. Just a gut instinct, but I think it will be heralded as a classic one day. Speaking of sculptors the director handled ‘Monos’ so deftly and tactfully and avoided cheap tricks and thrills to manipulate the audience. I felt I was in such good hands. lol

  5. selizabryangmailcom says:

    Yeah, Reynold’s sister DID steal every scene. She was great! What expressive eyes….. I’ll probably warm up to the other characters, too, if I see it again. I could see that happening.
    I hope to see Monos one day, also. I love when writers and directors avoid cheap tricks and thrills. It’s like…thank you for not talking down to me and treating me like a four-year-old!

    Thanks for asking about the story! It is available on my site if you want to read it:
    https://staceyebryan.wordpress.com/other-stories-and-stuff/

    It’s one of the more *serious* types of stories I want to get back to writing after I’m done with my comedy series. I’m working so much right now (at my regular job) that I’m just too tired to think on my off time. I haven’t engineered my ilfe very well, I don’t think, lol.

    • I’m glad you were impressed as I was in her performance. Those parts where she looks straight into the camara are fantastic. It’s one of the best supporting performances I have seen in a long time.
      I can’t wait to read your reaction to Monos. He handled this very tricky subject matter with such finesse.
      Thank you so much for the link to your story. When things quiet down here I look forward to reading it. I’m sorry to read that you have been so busy of late. I hope you are able to get on top of the whole work-life balance. Have a great day Stacey.

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