The Thinking of Speaking
Issue #7 January / February 2014
At the Cinema
Mal Día Para Pescar - Bad Day to Go Fishing
by Erik Zidowecki
January / February 2014 | 

This month, I will be reviewing a Uruguayan film which takes place in South America while starring a Scotsman who plays a descendant of European royalty, a Finnish man playing a German, and an Italian woman playing a South American.

Mal Día Para Pescar takes place in a fictional town of "Santa Maria", which could be anywhere. The main characters are former "Strongest Man on Earth" Jacob van Oppen and his manager and promoter, "Prince" Orsini. They are traveling South America, going from one city to another and setting up wrestling exhibitions, in which Jacob shows off his strength and competes against a local challenger. Anyone that can last three minutes in the ring with Jacob is awarded one thousand dollars.

That is what they tell people, at least. Jacob's glory days are long past, and the years of fighting have taken a toll on him, leading to some brain damage, bipolarism, and some kind of cyclic fits. In each place they visit, Orsini gets the town to host the exhibition, selling tickets to the final event. Meanwhile, he secretly scouts out the local champion ("fishing") and convinces him to challenge Jacob, during which he will lose and be paid a much smaller amount for his show. In this way, they take in the money form the tickets to the event while never having to pay out the prize money. It is a scam that has kept them going for a while, but just barely.

Adriana is very stubborn and suspicious of Orsini and his champion

At first, everything seems to be going well. Orsini finds the local champion and convinces him to take the bribe. However, soon after that, the man demands the bribe early, using it then to get drunk and arrested, so he won't be able to do the challenge.

Meanwhile, Orsini has been approached by Adriana, a woman who is convinced her fiance could defeat Jacob and wants the prize money so that they can get married. Orsini turns her down initially, on the grounds that he already has a challenger, but when that challenger is arrested, he has little choice but to accept her proposition.

Jacob starts becoming more unstable, crying in a church half of people at a baptism and splashing about in a public fountain. Orsini also hears more about the new challenger, a Turk named Mario, who is able to lift a grown cow and do laps around the town. Orsini knows that Jacob can't defeat him, but when he tries to bribe Mario like the others, Adriana steps in and both decline the bribe.

A key theme to this movie is doing whatever is needed to survive.

Being pressed by both the newspaper promoter and Adriana to produce the prize money before the fight, Orsini becomes increasingly nervous. The night before the fight, he tries to get Jacob to leave with him, explaining to Jacob that his previous "wins" had been rigged by him. Rather than scaring the aged fighter into leaving, however, it stirs his pride and he is now totally determined to beat Mario.

The movie starts with a scene immediately following the fight, in which someone is rushed from the theatre, in which fight is held, to the hospital, with the doctor announcing that there is little chance of survival. But who is it?

Orsini showing Jacob off to promote the exhibition

The languages used in the movie are Spanish with English being used between Jacob and Orsini. A little Italian is tossed in with the singing of the song "Funiculi , Funicula".

A key theme to this movie is doing whatever is needed to survive. Jacob desperately wants to be in his glory days again, and Orsini has convinced him that taking this "tour" will get him a wrestling contract. Orsini has apparently had some kind of fine upbringing, reflected in the way he dresses and presents himself, even using the title "Prince", and is doing what he can to get back some level of prestige, even if that means lying and scamming everyone around him, including Jacob. Adriana is strong willed and pregnant, and she wants the money so she and Mario can be married and start a family.

More important to the movie is seeing the way the two main characters really interact with each other, out of the sight of other people. Jacob is at times both an man old before his time and a child. Orsini is sleazy yet noble in some ways, and, while he might not admit it, really cares about Jacob. I would really like to know how these two met and came into this arrangement because, while rather odd, it feels totally natural between them.

The movie takes place in 1962, and this is beautihalfy shown in the set of the town, the old cars, and the lack of modern phones and other devices. This contributes to the desperate and at times, even sad, mood of the film. I would not call it a depressing movie, because it really isn't, and it has its comedic moments as well.

Mal Día Para Pescar premiered at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and was the Uruguayan entry to the Oscar Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It won many international awards, along with 10 Uruguay Fipresci Critics Awards, including Best Film, Best International Film Debut, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor. It even got nominated for Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Actor by the Spanish Critics (CEC).

Adriana and Orsini talking about the fight.

I was a bit hesitant about seeing this movie at first, because I am not really one that enjoys dramas, finding them often too depressing, but I did enjoy this movie. The interactions between the characters is very touching and believable and we never really know which way things will end up. For example, right before the fight, we see Orsini, desperate to come up with the prize money, engage in a card game in which he keeps raising the stakes. This is a cliche for many movies, because our man would then miraculously win all the money he needs. However, in this movie, Orsini proves to be a bad gambler and loses everything he had left, unable to even buy a round of drinks.

If you do like human dramas with twists and turns, you should definitely see Mal Día Para Pescar. Just watching Orsini squirm up to the end and seeing Jacob find his way are well worth it. PT

At The Cinema - Mal Día Para Pescar - Bad Day to Go Fishing
Writer: Erik Zidowecki
• "Mal Día Para Pescar" Internet Movie Database <>
• "Bad Day to Go Fishing" Wikipedia <>
All images are copyright Baobab Films, Expresso Films, Telespan 2000

All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.


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