A strong performance at the Argentine box office confirming its national-historical import, Chronicle of an Escape
dramatizes the testimony of escapees from General Jorge Rafael Videla’s right-wing junta, in power during the long “Dirty War” years of the late ’70s and early ’80s. It’s the story of four men among the thousands detained, often eternally, with no warrants or due process. Minor-league goalkeeper Claudio (Rodrigo de la Serna), indicted merely on the basis of unsupported testimony regarding his subversive activities, is unceremoniously ripped away from his everyday existence and shunted off to a desolate manor in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, where he and his fellow detainees are beaten with a brutally punctual regularity and systematically dehumanized by an indifferent, chain-smoking squad of thugs. The primary mode of Adrián Caetano’s filmmaking is immediacy—handheld camera work that shoves in close to snuffle up every wince—but that’s the only access point to this hermetic, shuttered world of hurt. There’s barely a contrasting glimpse of life beyond captivity; the performances are all mortised with pain; the prisoners— unshaven, dirty, and blending into the soiled walls of their quarters—melt into one murky miasma of destitution. Chronicle might be utterly uncompromising in its “you are there” visceral style—or just unresourceful. I tend toward the latter reading.