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Genius Products presents
The Aura (El Aura) (2006)

"I pay attention. I don't forget a thing I see."
- Esteban (Ricardo Darin)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: April 09, 2007

Stars: Ricardo Darín
Other Stars: Dolores Fonzi, Alejandro Awada, Pablo Cedron, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Rafael Castejón, Manuel Rodal, Walter Reyno, Victoria Vescio
Director: Fabian Bielinsky

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence)
Run Time: 02h:13m:10s
Release Date: April 10, 2007
UPC: 796019798709
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

A timid taxidermist with epilepsy fantasizes about committing the perfect crime, and is suddenly given the opportunity to do so. That would be a fairly apt, one-sentence description of Fabian Bielinsky's The Aura (El Aura), the 2005 Spanish-language film that sadly would be the last for the writer/director, who died of a heart attack in 2006. Only the second feature film for Bielinsky (Nine Queens) he once again casts Argentinean star Ricardo Darin in the lead, here portraying Esteban, the quiet, puffy-eyed working man who falls in hard with a group of ruthless criminals after a hunting accident starts an terrible chain reaction.

For what is ultimately a caper film, Bielinsky moves very deliberately with his storytelling, taking an almost lyrical, dreamlike tack, as opposed to the hammer-it-hard style seen in most U.S. releases. Darin's Esteban is a man of few words, who by his own admission remembers everything he sees, and at one point—while standing in line to get paid—he suggests to a friend the best way to stage a robbery. Bielinsky shows the fictitious heist taking place around them as Esteban explains, with people in line suddenly becoming gun-wielding robbers, and as the perfect crime plays out we can see the detailed wheels spinning inside the taxidermist's head, full of ideas that theoretically can never come to fruition. With his humdrum life on autopilot, Darin's face is a wonderful study in weariness and sorrow, and his character here truly carries the weight of the world on his shoulders.

The plot takes a big step forward when Esteban begrudgingly joins a friend on a deer hunting trip, which just happens to be near a casino that will be closing for good that very weekend. Like carefully arranged dominoes, events begin to knock into one another (some more deadly than others), and the chance to take part in a huge armored car heist flashes before Esteban. But Bielinsky doesn't go the easy way to tell the story, choosing instead to paint to subtle parallels between deer hunting, the taxidermist's life, and the realities of facing a one-in-a-million chance to finally do what is expected of one's self. Some of the most intense moments in The Aura are purely dialogue free, as Bielinsky affords Ricardo Darin space to convey a fairly wide range of emotion through expression only, full of fear, self-doubt, and ultimately something resembling courage.

The title refers to the unavoidable, hazy, dreamlike sensation Esteban gets just before one of his epileptic seizures kicks in, and Bielinsky feeds Darin a fine block of dialogue to explain this, one of the few times his character is allowed to be so cryptically eloquent. It's a wonderfully sad explanation, matched by the dramatic use of sound and visuals of the seizure itself, and as the film progresses these attacks take form at the most inopportune moments imaginable.

Bielinsky also uses some other non-traditional tricks, as there are some intense dialogue-free moments between Esteban and a large wolf-like dog, who at times almost takes on an almost mythical persona. During one key scene, through clever editing and framing, the tension between the two becomes as genuine as if it were between two human actors, and while Ricardo Darin sells his own fear very well, Bielinsky seems to convey exactly what the dog is thinking, and it is a mix of confusion, anger, and mistrust.

There's a challenge when making any genre film, including certain essential story elements. These elements are essential—a heist movie needs a heist—but in the end if the characters themselves are duds, it becomes difficult to get audiences to invest in them. The Aura, a heist film deep down, is one of those films where I almost didn't care if the big crime ever took place, because I felt such a strong connection to watching and listening to the characters, in particular Ricardo Darin's Esteban. As film fans, most of us already know the perfect crime cannot really exist—there are always tragic consequences—and knowing this makes Esteban's actions all the more tragic.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Genius has inexplicably issued The Aura in letterboxed nonanamorphic widescreen, in a roughly 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The transfer itself is free of any dirt or debris, and the image quality reveals sharp edges and prominent detail. The palette appears moderately subdued, almost purposely desaturated during some sequences, while the elements set in the woods carry slightly brighter, deeper colorings. Some minor grain is evident at times, as well as some small noticeable moments of shimmer.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The sole audio track is the original Spanish language, presented here in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. It's a deceptively unobtrusive mix that delivers a potent burst of activity during the epilepsy sequences, where the rear channels and sub come across with a sometimes startling intensity. The effect is well done, and the remainder of the film carries clear voice quality and modest directional pans.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Killshot, Harsh Times, Coastlines
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Extras are rather skimpy and light, with Making The Aura (03m:19s) just a quickie interview with Ricardo Darin (with subtitles) played over clips and behind-the-scenes footage. Behind-The-Scenes: A Musical Montage (02m:35s) is unusual, if nothing else—an assortment of production footage set to the film's score. The film's theatrical trailer, as well as those for a trio of other Genius titles, is also included.

The disc is cut into 19 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or Spanish.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

The sudden death of director Fabian Bielinsky in 2006 was a great loss to international film audiences, as we're never going to get another dose of his unique visual approach to the crime genre. With The Aura he tilts that approach in beautiful and unusual directions, pulling forth another compelling performance from Ricardo Darin.

The extras are rather skimpy and the transfer is nonanamorphic, but the quiet energy of The Aura far outweighs those negatives.

Highly recommended.


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