A few minutes into The Headless Woman, Veronica (Maria Onetto)—the titular headless woman—hits something with her car as she searches for her ringing cell phone. From a rear view, we see, in a briefly held long shot, what appears to be a dead dog in the middle of the road; she drives on. Soon, it becomes clear that the accident has affected Vero’s mental state. She is confused and disoriented. Over time, she starts to return to normal. But as Vero pieces things together, we are left doubting what we’ve seen. Vero realizes she may—or may not—have killed a child with that thud, and we start to wonder if we can really trust that shot of the dog, or even if it was a dog we were looking at in the first place.
Lucrecia Martel, the ferociously talented Argentinean director whose previous films are La Cienaga and The Holy Girl, does not shoot establishing or transition shots. Instead, her images are mostly shallow focus close-ups. As a result, she demands that her viewers work to make sense of them, to follow character relationships that are established with fleeting lines of dialogue, to infer offscreen space through sound, to question the limits of their own perception. Click here to read Chris Wisniewski’s interview with Lucrecia Martel, director of The Headless Woman.