(El Guardian Invisible)
Director – Fernando Gonzalez Molina, Screenplay – Luiso Berdejo, Based on the Novel by Dolores Redondo, Producers – Mercedes Gamero, Adrian Guerra, Mikel Lejarza, Peter Nadermann & Nuria Valls, Photography – Flavio Labiano, Music – Fernando Velazquez, Visual Effects Supervisor – Alex Villagrasa, Special Effects Supervisors – David Campos & Raul Romanillos, Makeup Effects – De Diego FX (Supervisors – Pedro De Diego & Irene Puche), Production Design – Anton Laguna. Production Company – Nostromo Pictures/Astremedia Cine/El Guardian Invisible AIE/Nadcon/ZDF/Arte/Atresmedia.
Marta Etura (Inspector Amaia Salazar), Elvira Minguez (Flora Salazar), Carlos Librado “Nene” (Jonan Etxaide), Benn Northover (James Westford), Francesc Orella (Montes), Itziar Aizpuru (Aunt Engrasi), Patricia Lopez (Rosaura Salazar), Quique Gago (Victor), Pedro Casablanc (Comisario General), Paco Tous (Dr San Martin), Idurre Puertas (Young Amaia), Mikel Losada (Freddy), Colin MacFarlane (Aloisius Dupree), Richard Sahagun (Zabalza)
Amaia Salazar is a police detective in Pamplona. She is assigned to investigate the murder of a teenage girl in the Baztan area. The girl has been found strangled, left nude and with a locally baked txantxigorri cake placed on her pubic mound. Amaia sees similarities to other cases she investigated and believes it is a serial killer at work. She is reassigned to take charge of the case. This means returning to her hometown Elizondo, which is at the centre of the killings. As other teenage girls are killed, this requires Amaia to have to delve into her difficult and uncomfortable childhood.
Dolores Redondo is a Spanish crime writer. Her success began with her second book The Invisible Guardian (2013), a crime procedural based around the area of Baztan, which is near where she grew up. Redondo followed the adventures of detective Amaia Salazar up in two subsequent works Legacy of the Bones (2016) and Offering to the Storm (2017). All of these wind mythology of the region in alongside police procedurals.
The rights to the books were brought up German producer Peter Nadermann who has been behind The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) and sequels, as well as the hit tv series’ The Killing (2007-12) and The Bridge (2011-8). The director was Fernando Gonzalez Molina who had previously worked in dramas. Naderman and Molina subsequently went on to film Dolores Redondo’s other books in the Baztan trilogy with Legacy of the Bones (2019) and Offering to the Storm (2020)
I always enjoy a dark and twisted police procedural and looked forward to The Invisible Guardian. It seemed to have all the ingredients – ritual child killings, a serial killer, the suggestion of a local Bigfoot type creature in the background, the heroine having to delve deep into her messed-up and abusive family history to solve the case. The cinematographic palette is all navy blues, greys and blacks as though the whole film takes place on a permanently rainy night.
It is a capably put together film. And you are absorbed in it as the investigation starts to happen … only for nothing much to really happen. The script twists and turns like a dutiful police procedural but fails to provide anything that keeps us as an audience gripped or any twists that jolt us in our seats. There is no dropjaw surprise to the revelation of the killer at the end. Nothing that stands up to being the dark, gripping serial killer thriller that The Invisible Guardian suggested it was going to be at the outset.
The one scene that the film does touch onto what it promised to be is where Maria Etura is at a loggerheads in her investigation and goes to ask the advice of her aunt who does a tarot reading. The eerie presentiments that come out through the cards – that Amaia is dealing with a much bigger threat than the murder investigation, that the threat is closer than she thinks and aware of her – holds something incredibly spooky. If only there had been more of this to the film. The film also raises the fascinating idea of the local Bigfoot creature known as a basajaun, which seems to only be a local legend until the surprise ending where we do actually get to briefly glimpse the creature.