Rotten Tomatoes wrote:
This Argentinean tale, which revolves around a group of families passing summer vacation in a rural country house, does not rely on a concrete plotline, but rather roves, rambles, and stumbles upon each new event. The most notable characteristic of La Ciénaga is its mood — a brooding, dreadful, fearsome tension that does not wain or cease even in the very last moment of the film. No event, no action, no exchange of words, no scene of the movie is more or less important than another. Instead, the film continues nonsequentially in what feels like a prolonged wait.
Using gorgeous, realistic photography — of green mountains against a grayish humid sky, of the bright colors of summer swimsuits and shorts stained with blood or mud, of the simultaneously beautiful and disgusting human body — Lucrecia Martel’s oeuvre is about strings of images and the suggestion of potential meanings. Never, however, does the director step over the line and reveal too much to her viewers. As characters come and go from the film’s focus, maintaining a chilly distance from the viewer, La Ciénaga unfurls slowly, languorously, and without closure.
Two families try to make the best of a bad situation as they suffer through a crippling heat wave in this neo-realistic drama, featuring a primarily non-professional cast. Tali (Mercedes Moran) is minding four small children with little help from her husband, who is preoccupied with the opening of hunting season, as a record hot spell grips Argentina. Things aren’t much better for her cousin Mecha (Graciela Borges), who is looking after four teenagers and a husband (Martin Adjemian) who can hardly be bothered to help out, but Mecha does have a pool, even if it hasn’t been cleaned in quite a while. Tali and her brood end up spending much of the summer with Mecha as the town is riveted by the appearance of the Virgin Carmen on the city’s water tower, and a series of thunderstorms add an awful humidity to the summer’s unbearable heat. While seemingly improvised, La Ciénaga was actually carefully scripted by Lucrecia Martel, who won a screenwriting award at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival prior to making her directorial debut with this feature.