Marshland (La isla minima) (2014)

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Due Out for Sale 9-Dec-2015

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Trailer-x 4 for other films
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2014
Running Time 100:08 (Case: 105)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Alberto Rodríguez
Gryphon Entertainment Starring Javier Gutierrez
Raul Arevalo
Maria Varod
Perico Cervantes
Salva Reina
Jesus Castro

Case Alpha-Transparent
RPI ? Music Julio de la Rosa

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Spain, September 1980; two detectives from Madrid, Juan (Javier Gutierrez) and Pedro (Raul Arevalo), are sent to a small town in the marshlands of southern Andalucía to investigate the disappearance of two teenage girls, sisters, who were last seen getting into a white car. The father of the two girls (Perico Cervantes) seems reluctant to help although their mother (Maria Varod) is more forthcoming, providing the detectives with their first clues. When the bodies of the two sisters, raped, mutilated and murdered, are found in the marshes the investigation widens and it becomes clear that this is not the first time teenage girls have disappeared in the town. Aided by poacher Jesus (Salva Reina) who knows the marshlands, clues lead the detectives to Quini (Jesus Castro), a young man who had known all the missing girls. But Quini is just the tip of the iceberg, and there is a lot more going on than it appears on the surface.

     Marshland (La isla minima) is a well-crafted crime drama from director / co-writer Alberto Rodriguez that looks stunning courtesy of cinematographer Alex Catalan. The film starts with aerial views of the marshlands with surreal colours of blue, red, green or brown, these aerial shots recurring at intervals throughout the film, often after the reveal of some clue or information. This opens up a film that is otherwise closed in upon the two detectives, where the colour palate is much more subdued with the yellow/ brown of the marshes and a sky and water that is more grey than blue.

     Like all good crime / mystery dramas, Marshland is as much about the society and the characters as the mystery or solving the crime. Marshland is set five years after the death of the dictator General Franco, when Spain was stepping tentatively into democracy amid unemployment and workers’ strikes while vestiges of the old, non-democratic Spain remain, especially in rural areas such as southern Andalucía where pictures of Franco and Hitler still adorn walls. This is a conservative region, where smuggling is a way of life, the Civil Guard are not above corruption and outsiders are viewed with suspicion.

     The POV of Marshland is exclusively that of the two visiting policemen: we see only what they see and know only what they discover as they interact with the family of the dead girls, the authorities, the locals, the Civil Guard and suspects. As the detectives in a difficult environment, Javier Gutierrez and Raul Arevalo are all too believable. Their characters mirror the dichotomy within Spanish society. Pedro is the younger generation, liberal and honest, a believer in due process and democracy with a wife in Madrid and a baby on the way. Juan is old school; he is avuncular and easy going, drinking in bars with locals to get information and happily chatting up women. But Juan has a dark side: he is sick with blood in his urine, is more than likely to beat up suspects to get information and we learn that he had been a member of Franco’s secret police and may have taken part in atrocities against opponents of the regime. Despite their differences, however, the two policemen must work together to solve the murders as a tentative respect for each other develops.

     Marshland was a critical success in Spain winning a swag of Goya and CEC awards including those for best film, director and screenplay. These were well deserved: it is a wonderful film, a crime thriller / mystery that is well written, well-acted, atmospheric, intelligent and compelling as the clues to the identity of the killer are revealed gradually and the film moves towards an explosive conclusion in the marshlands during a rainstorm. I enjoyed Marshland a lot; it is one of the best crime thrillers I have seen this year and it pulled me right into its world and its characters.

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Transfer Quality


     Marshland is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, close to the original 2.35:1 ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     Shot using Arri Alexi XT cameras, detail is crisp and some of the aerial images of the landscape spectacular. Otherwise the film utilises a lot of dull, noir like, lighting with characters filmed through gauze, car windows and the like, and frequently the light is behind the actors giving a deliberate indistinct look. The colour palate in most scenes is the yellow / brown of the marshlands or the fields awaiting harvest. In the night sequences however blacks are rock solid and shadow detail excellent. Brightness is consistent.

     I did not see any obvious artefacts or marks.

    The white English subtitles are burnt in. I noticed only one minor error.

     The layer change at 50:06 resulted in a pause at a scene change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps is the only audio option.

     The dialogue was clear and centred. Effects in the surrounds and rears were not overdone but they are effective when they occur and include music, bird calls and the wind, while the gunshots are deep. The subwoofer provided support for the music, fireworks and gunshots.

     The score by Julio de la Rosa is almost a character in its own right. It was moody and atmospheric and added effectively to the tone of the film.

     Lip synchronisation is fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     On start-up trailers for The World Made Straight (1:49), Drone (2:09), Glass Chin (1:42) and The Falling (1:37) play. The same trailers can also be selected from the menu.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     At this time there is no Region 1 US release of Marshland. The Region 2 UK version also has burnt in English subtitles but adds a making of (20:20) that is said to be standard fare, plus the film’s trailer (1:42), which I guess makes it the preferred option although it seems hardly worth importing.


     With its well-constructed and intelligent script, solid acting, believable characters and beautiful landscapes, Marshland is an atmospheric and compelling crime thriller that will be enjoyed by anyone who is interested in the genre or quality cinema. Comparisons to True Detective are not out of place.

     The video and audio are fine. Trailers for other films are the only extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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