Written by Maria Athayde
Azor is a Franco-Argentinian-Swiss co-production co-written and directed by Andreas Fontana marking his feature film debut. From the first shot there is something disorienting about the film. We see a somewhat disoriented man, surrounded by foliage, looking straight into the camera and shortly after we see two young men being questioned by the police at gunpoint on streets. At the same time, we observe a Swiss couple in a nearby car that are startled by this image as they make their way to their hotel after just landing in Buenos Aires. One of the things that contributes to this sense of disorientation is that characters often switch between Spanish, French, and English in the same sentence. So, understanding the context in which this film takes place helps enhance your viewing experience.
The film takes place in Argentina during the late 1970s early 1980s, a period of social and political unrest in the country. This period would later become known as Guerra sucia, or Dirty War in English. During this era thousands of people were killed or disappeared. The majority of those that went missing were seen as a threat to the military junta. It is within this fraught context that Azor takes place. Told through a series of distinct chapters we are introduced to Yvan De Wiel (Fabrizio Rongione), a Swiss banker, and his wife Inés (Stéphanie Cléau) as they embark on a journey to discover what happened to De Wiel’s partner who goes by the name Keys.
As the film unfolds, things become more unsettling. The plot is a bit sparse but there is a general understanding that finding Keys is the throughline which guides everything that happens on screen. The feeling of unease I had while watching this was also due to the economical and superb score as well as the dimly lit shots of De Wiel in Keys’ apartment trying to piece together what happened to his partner. Sharing anymore more would spoil the delicate surprises the rest of this film has in store. This film is an impressive socio-political character study that never feels heavy handed. Fontana’s precision and subtlety kept me invested even when not much was going on. All these achievements are more impressive considering this is Fontana’s debut feature. Azor is a definite recommendation on my list and one of the best films I’ve seen in 2021.
Azor was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival and is currently seeking distribution.