Oscars Special: “The Mole Agent” a raw portrait of loneliness

The Mole Agent is the only Latin American production to opt for an Oscar award.

Still from the film 'Agent Mole'

The Topo Agent is the only Latin American production to achieve a nomination for the most important award in world cinematography. Photo: YT-Market Chile

LatinAmerican Post | Luis Hernández Liborio

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Leer en español: Especial Óscar: Radiografía de la soledad en ‘Agente Topo’

For this upcoming 93rd Oscars ceremony, we present to you a review of The Mole Agent , the only Latin American production that achieved a nomination for the most important award in world cinematography. Chile and its cinema are once again in the spotlight at the Oscars after the films No by Pablo Larraín and A Fantastic Woman by Sebastián Lelio were nominated in 2013 and 2018 respectively for the award for Best International Film, although Lelio's film was the only one that won a statuette.

Spying on loneliness

The Mole Agent is such an interesting mix of emotions that it is impossible for it to go unnoticed. The story follows Don Sergio, an older adult hired by a private investigator to be a spy in a nursing home. His main mission is to investigate whether there is mistreatment towards a woman, a relative of the person that contracted his services. The task is not easy, Don Sergio is going through a difficult moment in his life and he identifies constantly with the people around him in the asylum.

That is the whole premise of the story, it is as simple as it is disturbing, we are not seeing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Miloš Forman, 1975) where the protagonist, Jack Nicholson, and the patients are actors. In The Mole Agent, neither the protagonist nor the people who live in the nursing home are actors. Although there is a script or an intention of it, the reality is that the story developed organically, according to Maite Alberdi, its director.

As a viewer you cannot recognize what is real and what is scripted, but what can be clearly noticed is the deep reflection on loneliness, friendship and ethics, always from the point of view of old age. It is worth noting the fact that during the filming of the documentary the inhabitants of the house did not know the reasons for the filming, nor the relationship of Don Sergio (the mole) with the production. 

In this regard, the director commented to the newspaper El Comercio de Peru: "… at the end of the shooting I had about 300 hours of material and I did not know how the film was going to end up. So I decided to finish editing it and the first people I invited to see it were homeowners and people who work there. Just before I started the screening I told them the truth: You know, I lied to you. This is a spy movie, with an undercover agent. "

Finally, at the production level, everything happens in the nursing home and visually the use of color reminds us more of fiction than of the classic documentary. There is a well-cared-for aesthetic in the handling of the planes and frames that is far from the traditional documentary. It easily makes us doubt at times about what is real and what is not. This ability to surprise us makes it definitely deserve an Oscar, thanks to its reflection on adult life that is not limited to Latin America, but is universal.

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Another victorious night for Chile?

Chile dared to submit a documentary as its nominee for Best International Film at the Oscar and in the end, it paid off. The nomination came but in the category of Best Documentary Feature Film, an unprecedented place in these awards for Chilean cinematography. Just last September the documentary won the audience award for Best European Film, thanks to the fact that it is a co-production with Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States, according to Biobio Chile.

Since then it has been gaining popularity, especially with its premiere on Netflix in 2021 and its Oscar nomination. However, this award is not the only one to which it has opted, it was also nominated for Best Ibero-American film in the most recent edition of the Goya Awards in Spain, where it was defeated by the Colombian El olvido que seremos by Fernando Trueba. The Mole Agent is still competing in the Film Independent Spirit Awards in the category of Best Documentary that will take place on April 22, and of course in the Oscars that will take place on April 25.

The issue it addresses, that of old age, has caused ample discussion during this pandemic years. This could be an advantage for The Mole Agent at the Oscars, thanks to the fact that it makes their loneliness visible. However, it is also important to note that it competes with documentaries such as Crip Camp and Fox Rich that also bring to the fore the problems of vulnerable sectors of society, so it will be a close fight for the statuette.

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