“The Angel” (“El Ángel”)
Carlos Robledo Punh, Serial Killer
Carlos Robledo Puch (Lorenzo Ferro) was an Argentinean serial killer, whose crimes surprised the police because of their cruelty. He was popularly known in the media as El Angel, because of its sweet and childish face features. Much of the myth that grew up around him came from the disconnect between vicious nature of his crimes and his sweet demeanor and face.
We first meet the curly-haired, liquid-eyed Carlos as the latent homosexual Carlitos who is drawn to schoolmate Ramón (Chino Darin). Ramon becomes his partner in crime, if not in bed. Ramón’s career-criminal parents (Mercedes Morán and Daniel Fanego) encourage him and give him access to guns. Carlitos is armed, cute, upset by unrequited lust. He is totally amoral and it is only a matter of time before he commits his first murder. He seems to have a feel for the drama of symmetry: One of the shootings happens through the hole he’s blowtorched into the back of a safe; another is a double killing of two men sleeping in twin beds, shot simultaneously from a gun in either hand. Afterwards, Carlitos looks impassively at the bodies and wonders if they’re feigning death: “This is all a joke, right?” That chilling moment, however, is almost as much psychology as we get because director Luis Ortega shows more interest in the how than the why. He uses the scenes of violence for black comedy, so that the crime is anticlimactic and the victims are largely irrelevant. Carlitos’ baby-faced, bright-eyed lack of ingenuity suits that agenda perfectly. He’s an unruffled a killer.
Carlitos was a prayed-for child who was treated with nothing but love by his upstanding parents (Luis Gnecco and Cecilia Roth), yet he somehow believes it’s his destiny to be a criminal and calls himself a “spy for God”. He pauses during heinous acts as if he is waiting for applause. We become very aware of the tremendous gulf between his pretty face and the repulsive psychology behind it. Ortega is as dazzled by Carlitos’ appearance as the Argentinean media were by Carlos fifty years ago. The film offers no answers to why someone who is so pleasing on the outside can be so disgusting on the inside.