The Aura, the second feature from Argentine director Fabián Bielinsky, is so strange and lovely that his recent death at the young age of 47 seems even more tragic for all it has denied the world of cinema. Bielinsky's final work is a film that relishes distance and isolation, glorying in the experiences of a man who lives apart from the world around him. Like its main character, The Aura exists in a sort of suspended animation: It offers no backstory, and there is no future suggested by its ending. It simply exists, a work of such power and grace that its needs no external support.
The film centers on an unnamed taxidermist (the note-perfect Ricardo Darín) who, like the film, exists in a vacuum. We know he is epileptic because the movie opens with him on the ground, after a seizure. He rarely acknowledges his condition, but it dominates his life and is a source of both frustration and perverse joy. We know he has a wife because she leaves him, but we see her only once, fleetingly, though a pebbled glass window. And we have no idea why she left, or what their relationship was like. (At one point, the taxidermist makes a general attack on abusive husbands and, though at the time his words seem aimed at another, there's a such an odd, personal depth to his loathing that one wonders -- fleetingly, but the question is there -- if, perhaps, we've just been told exactly why his wife left.) Apart from his wife, the taxidermist seems to know a single other person: A big, loud colleague of whom he's clearly not very fond. They are forced into a certain camaraderie because of their shared profession, but it's an obvious effort for the taxidermist to even engage in basic social niceties. When his colleague asks how he's been, and what he brought to the museum at which they meet, the taxidermist answers him, and then falls silent. It's not until several seconds later that he remembers something is expected of him, and offers an awkward "And you?"