Saturday, 8 February 2020
On a fundamental level, Monos is a rumination on leadership and the power that comes with it. Alejandro Landes' film (co-written with Alexis Dos Santos) is an unhurried, painstakingly described examination of how challenges and responsibility affect the individual. Some are cowed, straining under the weight bestowed upon them. For others it's an accelerant, one that confers terrifying, extrajudicial, justification to their every thought and decision - they become, ineffably, correct. No one is allowed to disagree.
Although he eventually bullies his way into the top spot, Moisés Arias' Bigfoot is not suited to command simply because he wants it so badly. Bigfoot doesn't want to lead his fellow child soldiers because of an unfailing belief in whichever (deliberately ill-defined) cause demands they all rot together in waterlogged trenches. Instead Bigfoot's idea of authority is simply the muscle and interpersonal influence to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, to whoever he wants. Set on Colombia's mountain ranges, Monos tracks a gaggle of cold, wet teenage soldiers who have been tasked to look after an important, American, hostage.
In its early passages, Monos describes the children's predicament in terms of, basically, school. The hierarchies in play are loose and seemingly malleable - couples pair off (after asking permission from visiting muscle men) and each teenager has a defined, respected role within the collective. This doesn't last. Soon the covetous Bigfoot is in charge. When Bigfoot finally assumes full command of the group, all ideological order is extinguished. His fellow soldiers are required to, simply, follow. They stack themselves behind their aggressive, greedy commander then copy his creeping, predatory lockstep, marching deeper and deeper into the jungle.