As this documentary-style fiction ends with the bald fact that, during the savage Argentinian dictatorship of the 70s, several thousand tortured prisoners were dropped, while still alive, into the sea, you have already been confronted by scene after scene of low-key horror. No actual rape or torture, you understand, just heavy suggestions thereof as a door shuts on an alarmed face, a woman prisoner mops up blood in a cell, and the atmosphere of death is pierced by the occasional scream. Because you are left to fill in the gaps, you find yourself imagining what grim thoughts seize these political prisoners, what motivates their brutal captors, as you follow the progress of Maria, a young Italian-Argentinian teacher who is politically active and is thus seized in front of her mother and taken to the Garage Olimpo, a decrepit garage beneath which lie the torture cells.
It is director Marco Bechis' softly-softly approach which fills each frame with real power and leaves you in no doubt as to his commitment and passion. It is indeed no surprise to learn that this Italian-Chilean was himself snatched by the military in Buenos Aires and tortured. Yet, despite his admirable insistence on moving us with the truth (helped by his grainy camerawork), Bechis can also tell a tale and he gradually incorporates a race-against-time element. Will Maria escape, especially when she is taken out on the town by her captor? Let's just say that the answer would be alien to Hollywood.