Thursday 5 October 2023

TV review: Burning Body, Netflix (2023)

A Spanish real-life crime drama, ‘Burning Body’ ticks all the boxes. It’s got violence, sex, family, money, even real estate (Rosa Perales lives in a nice big house with a pool). It’s a walking soap opera. It’s not just true-to-life but Perales is attractive in real life – Netflix has a docuseries out about her as well so you can see what she looks like in the courtroom. The title hints to the motivation behind the crime but people outside Spain won’t know anything about Perales so I won’t disclose the details.

The soundtrack used is sexy and knowing, as well as fun. Sometimes one of the actors does a take straight to camera in order to point out the irony of the facts, and this technique adds humour where in reality there is none. It’s not funny when an innocent man (even though he did argue with his girlfriend and was probably overly macho) is murdered, driven to a secluded spot by a reservoir, and burned in his car with petrol. Eva Llorach is good as Ester Varona the detective who’s appointed to investigate the crime. There is a lot of suspense as she starts to doubt Perales’ account (Perales blamed her ex-husband Javi; played by Isak  Feriz) and step by step with her subaltern Eduard (Pep Ambros) she hones in on the truth. 

It was especially interesting to see how a jury trial is conducted in Spain for this kind of case, the jury sits in open court (no box) and the prosecutor is where a judge would sit in the Anglo system. The defence attorney sits off to the side near the person charged, and there is no box for the accused as well, they just sit on a bench. Another difference is the fact that a jury’s decision doesn’t have to be unanimous in Spain, one or more jurors can dissent from the majority opinion, with a threshold being set by the court. So when Perales was convicted it had to be at least seven jurors in favour of a “guilty” verdict. One dissented and she got eight “guilties”. 

It's a strange plot because it’s tied to reality. I think a show like this entertains because of the idiosyncrasies of the plot, some things – like how Perales allowed Pedro (Jose Manuel Poga) to proposed marriage when she actually still liked Albert (Quim Gutierrez). It’s a strange story, stranger than anything I’ve seen coming out of the offices of fictional drama movies or TV shows. There’s something so dodgy about Perales that you cannot imagining anyone dreaming up the story out of thin air. Well worth watching.

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