It is not necessary that to make a good suspense drama, the narrative has to be filled with path-breaking occurrences or over-the-top revelations. Often we place a mastermind of sorts at the helm of affairs in a thriller, who knows it all, is always a step ahead from the others, and creates the blueprint of a plan that, when it unfolds in the climax, leaves you with the feeling of deferential admiration and wonder. But in reality, there is no grand showdown. The revelations are not as romanticized as they are shown. The truth is just a matter of perspective that never gets substantially corroborated so as to be made explicit in nature. In life, people do not get answers to every question, and sometimes the truth too resides in a place that is untouched by objectivity.
“42 days of Darkness” (or “42 días en la oscuridad” in Spanish), directed by Gaspar Antillo and Claudia Huaiquimilla, is a battle of narratives. It dwells in that gray area where things are not just right or wrong, but are influenced by subjectivity. The victory of the screenplay, written by Rodrigo Fluxa and Claudia Huaiquimilla, is in the fact that, as an audience too, your perception and assumptions change throughout the course of the story. It is merely because of one reason: utterly compelling and realistic character arcs that inhibit complexities and biasness, that make them more humane. When these characters collide, then as a result of the tug o’ war, the case is clogged as they present their versions of the truth, and is unsubstantiated by a lack of evidence in the court of law. When one person’s word stands against the other, then the credibility of the testimony depends upon the overall view, which, devoid of any incriminating evidence, is as hazy as a foggy winter morning.
Veronica Montes was married to Mario Medina, and the couple had two daughters, Kari and Emi. On June 29th, 2010, Karen left for school, but when she returned, her mother was nowhere to be found. Looking at the condition of the house, she believed that somebody had trespassed on the premises and kidnapped her mother. She called her aunt, Cecilia, who lived in the adjacent house, and they informed Mario of the disappearance too. Mario went to the police station and filed a complaint for kidnapping. The chief officer, Toledo, was a bit startled, as major crimes were not committed that often in the area. Altos Del Lago, was a posh locality, and the news of the kidnapping spread like wildfire. The legal fraternity and the media personnel started to become curious about the happenings. Victor Pizarro, an attorney who was going through probably the worst phase of his life professionally, saw this case as a means to regain his lost dignity. He knew that he could be the official counsel for the aggrieved family. His license to practice law has been withheld due to malpractice, and after the ban was revoked he was finding it hard to establish his footing. The man had been professionally scared for life. He wanted to remove the blot on his respect. He contacted his two friends, who often helped him in solving cases. Nora had a deep knowledge of the criminal justice system and its intricacies, whereas Braulio had his claws deeply rooted in the bureaucratic structure and knew how to take out information. Pizarro needed his two trusted soldiers. They come aboard, and all three start excavating facts and forming theories based on it regarding the sudden and motiveless disappearance of Veronica.
Cecilia Montes, sister of Veronica, agrees to hire Victor Pizarro as her official counsel and expresses the doubts she had about Mario, whom she thought to be involved in the kidnapping. Mario was a quiet man, who had put on an impassive demeanor, so much so that the people had started questioning the credibility of his testimony, which already had a lot of discrepancies. Mario had hired a lawyer, who was making it difficult for Toledo to carry out his investigation and was interjecting the claims that Cecilia had made. It led to an internal conflict in the family, where accusations were made by both parties on one another.
Though Emi was too young to understand the nature of affairs, Karen was left in a fix. She didn’t know which narrative to believe in. Her aunt was pointing fingers at her father, but it was difficult for her to accuse him, considering the bond she shared with him as a daughter. She knew that her parents didn’t share a very happy relationship, but still, things were not so grave that her father would take such a drastic step. There was some amount of guilt that she also carried on her shoulders because of the way she had treated her mother for the past few days before her kidnapping.
According to Mario’s testimony, he had received a call from the kidnappers. They had apparently called from a cyber café, and a sketch of the perpetrator was prepared with the assistance of the owner of the café. Even after making the sketch public and announcing a reward in exchange for any information, the investigation wasn’t leading to any conclusive direction. It came to be known that both Mario and Veronica had extramarital affairs, but their respective partners didn’t corroborate the theory that Mario could have done something like that. In the absence of any intention and incriminating evidence, it was natural for everybody to lean toward the doubts raised by Cecilia. A husband, who was sick and tired of dealing with his wife, got to know about the extramarital affair that she was having and decided to take matters into his own hands.
Media trials also play a key role in such cases, and it doesn’t take much to put a person in a bad light. Media houses do not refrain themselves from creating a conspiracy theory based on stereotypes and perceptions, which often misleads the general public, who are unaware of the facts but believe in the hoax because it fits the pattern. But the question was whether the concerns of Cecilia had some foundation or were merely being believed because of a lack of a strong alternate theory.
Atmospherics often play a huge role in elevating the mood of any narrative. The gloomy and somber setting only adds to the impact being created by the appalling revelations in “42 Days of Darkness”. What the series does best is make its characters stand at a juncture where their sagaciousness is battling against their own wants, biases, and prejudices. The screenplay never scrutinizes the intricacies of bureaucracy or the corrupt structure but builds up to a crescendo through the insights and beliefs of its flawed characters. It’s a battle of narratives devoid of any conclusive proof, where the only ammunition is a person’s perception and their intuition and that’s what makes it extremely effective and captivating. The frustration, the flaws, the ambitions, the resistance, and the grief experienced by the characters make “42 Days of Darkness” a potent and realistic ride. The nitty-gritties of human relationships, in-depth characterizations, and powerful performances are able to create a world that resembles that of David Fincher and is devoid of any stereotypes. Maybe you won’t come to know the truth as you are accustomed to knowing, but surely you will question the very fabric that compels you to take sides and makes you oblivious to what you don’t want to see.