Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Monday, November 20, 2006

El Mar (aka The Sea)

This was another of Red's choices. It's funny, when her choices drop through the letterbox, invariably it is something I've never heard of, so I say to her: "What's this about, then?" And she'll reply: "I don't know. Is it one of mine?" Crazy woman!

El Mar is set in a sanitarium where young men are dying in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. It's not clear what they are dying from -- at least not to me, although it may be common knowledge to Spaniards. Suffice to say they're coughing up shitloads of blood.

The story focuses on two patients and a nun who works there. The three of them were schoolfriends ten years earlier and were kind of involved in the death of two other boys -- one killed by the other, who then committed suicide. The relationships between the three are complex and fascinating and very much grounded in their history -- a history they can never truly be free of. A history of violence (again that term), both in their personal lives and in the "life" of their country.

The three leads are all acting in their first movie here, but you would never know it. Their performances are strong, assured and wholly believable. As the film builds, it becomes more violent, bringing the story round in an inevitable circle and back to the violence with which it began.

El Mar surprised me. I expected nothing, because I knew nothing about it in advance. But it mixed real-life events with surreality, religion, and violence, leaving me never knowing what might come next. For me, this is what good cinema is all about. I hate the predictable dross that we see so much of. Sure, it's fun as popcorn fodder, but it's not real film-making.

So, how do I score this film? I think, once again, this is a film that will stay with me and appreciate in my mind. I should say at this point that Wife didn't like it at all. She doesn't know it yet, but I felt there were traces of David Lynch in there, so it doesn't surprise me that she no like. I'm going out on a limb here and giving this 67 points. Check it out.