English Title: The Inheritance
Original Title: La herencia
Country of Origin: Argentina
Studio: Selecciones GALA
Director: Ricardo Alventosa
Producer(s): Luis Ángel Vellalba
Screenplay: Ricardo Alventosa
Cinematographer: Américo Hoss
Art Director: Ponchi Monpurgo
Runtime: 78 minutes
Genre: Modern Families
Jorge López Ruiz
B/W, 35 mm
In a dark office, Selva is the only responsible worker. This does not go unnoticed by his co-worker, the ambitious Don César, who invites him to dinner at his house, where he lives with his daughter Coralia and Aunt Carlota, a dictatorial old lady who owns a great fortune. The purpose of introducing Selva to the young lady is successful, and they get married. When the aunt dies, the will reveals a special clause: the inheritance will take effect only if Coralia has a child within three years. Selva’s attempts to make his wife pregnant are in vain, and as time passes, tension grows. Then Don César and Selva invite Terranova, the office’s Don Juan, to meet Coralia. The birth of a child will mean the family’s fortune.
Based on a story by Maupassant, The Inheritance is, together with José Martínez Suárez’s Dar la cara (Face It) (1962), one of the films that best portrays the early 1960s in Argentina, and in a way continues the intellectual and illustrated humour of El negoción/The Big Business (Simón Feldman, 1959).
Consumerism (or proto-consumerism), the Army’s interference in civilian life, the right-left conflict and the Church’s loss of power are some of the many themes Alventosa treated in an ironic, sardonic, sarcastic and shrewd way. Sexual prowess and impotence, and the value of sexuality within urban society, are the axes around which this story charged with symbolism revolves: the Obelisk, the phallic icon of modernism in Buenos Aires, appears several times, even upside down. Sexuality is omnipresent: in the office, the cuckold who admits that at least one of his children is really his coexists with the cynical Casanova – an occasional stud – and with the infertile protagonist. The physical confrontation between the last two in a sequence of lifelike violence will not separate them, but will form the basis for the consummation of the deal. In that office, as in the house’s dining room, the funeral home, the notary’s office and all the spaces of conversation in the film, characters express themselves with irony and full consciousness of their actions and their corruption.
A film about the middle class and its attempts to emerge, The Inheritance does not include the lower classes. In Don César’s gaze, only people with a comfortable economic situation exist. Their goal and uncomfortable reminder to ‘save themselves’ economically is part of a national utopia. As an anthropological testimony of its time, there are abundant references to the epoch to which the film belongs: from the bubble car to the ironic use of billboards – ‘no left turn, keep to the right’ – to the covers of newspapers, the film constantly alludes to a country and a world in conflict. There are even tanks on the streets that document a moment of tension when two military factions had a warlike confrontation on the streets of Buenos Aires in 1962. Throughout the story, Selva always carries a portable radio, and as he travels on a tram the passengers hear the national anthem, associated with coups d’état. They stop to signal their respect or their compliance.
Verdaguer, the most famous Argentine stand-up comedian of his time, gives his character a touch of Buster Keaton and achieves moments of pathos. Pinzón, who plays a villain in many films, gets the most out of his sardonic side, while Mujica is a true harpy. Alventosa accomplished a disturbing and provocative film that approaches many unacceptable topics, such as the references to Don César’s incestuous thoughts about his daughter, or Selva’s consent to the sexual act between Coralia and her lover, all of it with a darkly comedic overtone.
The Inheritance suffered many pressures from censorship. It was rated ‘exhibition not mandatory’ and could not be exported. Georges Sadoul saw it, and made it possible for the film to be shown at international festivals such as Cannes or New York. It finally opened in Argentina, late and badly, three presidencies later.
Translated by Beatriz Urraca
Author of this review: Raúl Manrupe