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Directed by Lucrecia Martel

Argentina, Italy, Netherlands, Spain 2004 106 mins. In Spanish with subtitles

Set in the confines of a small, modest Salta (northern Argentina) hotel, Martel’s sophomore feature—following her unforgettable debut La Ciénaga—bristles with unfulfilled desire and religious pathos; the two films are inextricably, unsettlingly intertwined. Newcomer Maria Alché plays Amalia, the daughter of the hotel’s owners, her youth and burgeoning sexuality tied up in her Catholic upbringing. Dr. Jeno (Carlos Belloso), a new arrival at the hotel, crassly, wordlessly propositions Amalia, sparking a series of personal crises for the two, spreading outward to the hotel’s other patrons. Martel exactingly heightens the tension through her now-well-known use of off-kilter framing and idiosyncratic use of sound, producing a film of both intense pleasure and unease. “Martel can’t exactly be called a horror film director, but I can’t think of another filmmaker currently working in the genre with her knack for summoning tension; in both La Ciénaga and, now, The Holy Girl, you can cut it with a knife, all the more impressive because it feels so much like a world that truly exists.”—Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine. “A film that defies categorization, but I’m tempted to call it a miracle.”—A.O. Scott, The New York Times.