The horror, dude. The horror. I think I can say Alejandro Landes‘ “Monos” reminds us all of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now. It’s a gift for us and the world as well. With various references from William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies”, a sprinkle says if this has a powerful force to it. It’s a film about an exploration of human dehumanization, especially children, in Colombia. A band of eight teen soldiers became a guardian of the forest for the Organization, an unknown mysterious group. With anarchist rules without limits whether you want to do what, these young soldiers never knew what they were going through to the end.
The Organization knows very well what these children are going through. They put them in a dark place which almost made me vomit to death seeing the situation of these children. Physically and emotionally, they don’t know where they are now. But, one thing they know is don’t let a cow die. If the cow dies, there is a consequence. Wolf (Julián Giraldo), Lady (Karen Quintero), Boom Boom (Sneider Castro), Dog (Paul Cubides), Rambo (Sofia Buenaventura) are some of the children’s pseudonyms. They don’t have real names, even we never know the past and who their parents are. What we know is that they are guarding one of the American prisoners whom they mention as Doctora (Julianne Nicholson).
“Monos” is the third feature by Alejandro Landes. He had previously worked on a documentary called “Cocalero”. However, “Porfirio” is his first featured-debut movie. In “Monos”, Landes puts these children in nightmares, in forests where we never get used to, we never see. It’s one of the fascinating yet frustrating experiences to go through. What we never know is whether these children were thrown away. Are they orphans or have they been kidnapped? There are no adults, except only their mentors. Unconsciously, adults give complete to give them the freedom to live in the wild. However, it’s a foreshadowing if these children are consumed with their world, not caring about humanity anymore.
It’s a great complicated movie when you don’t know who else you can sympathize with. You want to sympathize with these kids because you know they are nothing but soldiers and puppets. You want to sympathize with the prisoner because you know what she’s been through right now. But, it’s hard when you can only see them from another perspective. Imagine, inadvertently, just killing the cows made these children don’t know what to do. There isn’t much going on in the first act besides you just witnessing these children doing their everyday life in the wild. No purpose of the story other than Doctora who provides a subtle plot.
Alejandro Landes doesn’t provide a specific location for the story of the movie. Apart from Colombia, we don’t know specific details. It’s astonishing because just like these kids, you don’t know where you are now. The horror of the movie caught you up because of the set and the tone as well. At the top of the mountain where you could be stabbed in the back, you think if either you just surrender or fight. However, “Monos” is an important movie because it’s happening in specific countries too. It’s a story about dehumanizing children in war, the use of children as a sacrifice for war and frontline.
Rambo is probably one of the most developed and prominent among all characters. We see him as a child in general but we just care for him a lot because it is he who develops a lot and through hell a lot day after day. Just like the shot at the end of the movie, you know this movie is just jaw-dropping. Doctora is also a real character besides Rambo as well but she kind of acts a bit of villain. But, we understand her motive for why she did it. It still progresses and produces a lot of allegory and symbolism through the images. Even one of the frames reminds you of “Apocalypse Now” directly, how these characters act like the movie as well, and how they drive insane.
There are so many wide shots, especially when it comes to scenery. Jasper Wolf shows a narrowness, vivid images, and claustrophobic tone of how living in the wild is so dangerous. Still, it’s so beautiful. Coupled with Mica Levi’s score, it’s just so haunting to watch. I always love her in “Under the Skin” and immediately fall in love with her work in this movie too. The eerie tone of the jungle, the omnipresent electronic music of the characters’ minds, the landscape blurred blue of the cinematography, this movie is an abyss. It’s amazingly yet hauntingly beautiful.