Netflix’s Rest in Peace: Is the Spanish Thriller a Work of Fiction?

Netflix’s ‘Rest in Peace’ delves into themes of fear, abandonment, and moral dilemmas. The story revolves around Sergio Dayán, a man facing severe financial difficulties without his wife’s knowledge. As debt collectors close in on him, Sergio becomes caught up in a bomb attack at the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, sustaining minor injuries. Contemplating how to navigate the situation and protect his family, Sergio opts to flee to Paraguay. Presumed dead, he embarks on rebuilding his life while his wife moves forward with hers. However, as time passes, Sergio becomes consumed with curiosity about the family he left behind under duress, prompting him to seek out their well-being.

Directed by Sebastián Borensztein, the film fearlessly confronts moral complexities and the repercussions of chosen actions. It presents a nuanced exploration of the protagonist’s decisions, leaving viewers to grapple with their interpretations. This portrayal of everyday human emotions raises questions about the film’s origins, inviting speculation that revolves around whether or not it is based on a true event.

Rest in Peace Injects Some Elements From History into Its Story

‘Rest in Peace’ is adapted from a novel of the same title penned by Martín Baintrub, featuring fictional characters navigating a backdrop rooted in reality. While writing the screenplay, Sebastián Borensztein and Marcos Osorio Vidal followed the path set by the book and weave elements of historical events and infamous incidents from Argentine history into its story. For instance, the bombing that propels Sergio to flee mirrors a real-life event that occurred in Buenos Aires in 1994.

The Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) bombing of 1994 in Buenos Aires stands as one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Argentine history. On July 18, 1994, a suicide bomber driving a van laden with explosives detonated the vehicle outside the AMIA Jewish community center, located in the bustling commercial district of Once. The devastating blast resulted in the loss of 85 lives and left hundreds injured. The attack not only inflicted immeasurable human suffering but also sent shockwaves throughout Argentina and the global Jewish community.

The parallels between the protagonist’s story in the film and real-life events also resonate with a case from the aftermath of the Ramón Irala attack. In this incident, an individual identified as victim 86 purportedly fled to Paraguay following the attack, evading capture for several years. Upon his eventual discovery and arrest, it was revealed that his wife had claimed life insurance benefits during his absence. While these connections remain unofficial and speculative, they draw attention to systemic issues and prejudices that can influence individuals’ decisions in dire circumstances, echoing themes explored in the film.

The portrayal of Sergio’s transition across the Argentine-Paraguay border and his adaptation to life in Paraguay offers a glimpse into the specificities of the region. These depictions are rooted in reality, as Baintrub, the author of the book on which the film is based, revealed in interviews. Baintrub’s upbringing immersed him in the anecdotes and customs of the area, particularly through his family’s ties to Paraguay on his father’s side. The authentic atmosphere captured in the book, and subsequently in the film, draws directly from these real-life inspirations.

The film is way more than the aforementioned events and it captures universal human emotions of internal conflict and desolation. It is these themes that drive the film forward and make it stand as a stark reminder of what the experience of being human is truly like. Elaborating on this, Borensztein said, “What I liked about the original novel is this central idea: a person who, cornered by debt, can take advantage of a random element in his life to leave his family behind and completely close that stage… At that moment he has such low self-esteem that he comes to think that if he is not there, everyone else will do better.”

He added, “Beyond the technology and the feasibility of erasing oneself from the map or not, the important thing is the decision to do so. That is the dilemma that the film poses, that viewers are left wondering what they would do if they found themselves in that situation. Especially knowing how the protagonist lives afterwards.” Through its honest portrayal of complex moral dilemmas and its grounding in real-life inspirations, ‘Rest in Peace’ resonates deeply with audiences, inviting introspection and contemplation long after the credits roll. It is in this fusion of authenticity and narrative craftsmanship that the true power of cinema lies – to evoke empathy, provoke thought, and ultimately, leave an indelible mark on the soul.

Read More: Rest in Peace Ending, Explained: Does Sergio Die?