Andrés Koppel / Spain / 2017 / 104 mins
@ Filmhouse as part of the 2018 Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival
A car speeds along a snaking mountain road on the Canary Island of La Gomera. Night is approaching and mist descends from the island’s craggy peaks, creating a foreboding atmosphere and a sense of mystery and anticipation. It’s a promising start for La Niebla y la doncella (Mist and the Maiden), adapted from the best-selling novel of the same name by prize-winning author, Lorenzo Silva.
A murder case is reopened three years after the original beheading of a well-known drug pusher. A local politician was subsequently acquitted of the crime, but still remains in the frame. Two members of the civil guard, Bevilacqua and Chamorro (played respectively by Quim Gutierrez and Aura Garrido), are sent from the mainland to lead the enquiry. They enlist the help of the local corporal who was the last to see the victim alive, Corporal Anglada, strongly portrayed by Veronica Echegui as something of a sex siren. From the start, the three investigators represent a rather uncomfortable triumvirate, as Anglada and Bevilacqua, played broodingly by Gutierrez, share an obvious chemistry and before too long, end up in bed together in a not wholly convincing romance.
La Gomera is one of the smallest and most photogenic of the Canary Islands and the cinematography is beautiful throughout, capturing some spectacular vistas and managing to convey the sense of a thriller (spoiler: mist features strongly). However, the impressive setting and competent acting of this film is not matched by its plot. The story takes various twists and turns, casting a spotlight on both new and old suspects, but it’s not the easiest to follow, leaving the viewer at times rather confused.
Mist and the Maiden is a directorial debut for Koppel who has much experience as a script writer. One wonders whether this is a book that just doesn’t translate well onto screen, as there isn’t the time to fully develop or explore some of the backstories. Furthermore it lacks a certain sense of drama, with one suspect interview following another. A dramatic twist near the end of the film could have been further developed and alongside the unmasking of the eventual killer, is somewhat unexpected, unbelievable and slightly anticlimactic. This is a real shame because the film starts off with much promise and is well-acted.