DIRECTOR: JOSE LUIS GARCI
COUNTRY: SPAIN 1995
CINEMATOGRAPHY: MANUEL ROJAS
MUSIC: MANUEL BALBOA
WRITTEN BY: Gregorio Martinez Sierra's play
CAST: Fiorella Faltoyano, Amparo Larranaga, Maria Massip,Virginia Mataix, Diana Penalver, Maria Luisa Ponte, Maribel Verdu, Carmelo Gomez, Alfredo Landa
SUPER FEATURES: Lovely film.......
If the intent of this film maker is to make someone cry, anyone in the audience, I would like to tell him that he succeeded.
But it isn't the fact that the film is that good that makes you cry, as much as it is the fact that the story is so well told, and put together, that it becomes irresistible, and the film, unlike many, maintains its impartiality, just to allow us to feel the emotions around us, instead of giving us a detail which sucks us in. In this case, this may have been intentional, since the culprits are nuns. In other words, the film is trying to make sure that the nuns also learn a lesson, one that has less to do with God per se, but much more to do with humanity.... and what a vehicle this is....
This story, is well known in the Spanish language, taken from a playwright at the turn of the century. And it has been turned into film by a veteran who has won an Oscar, but had retired from the film community because it had become fickle and not creative in his eyes. As the director says, in the liner's notes... "Despite the habits of today's film audiences, schooled on disaster, violence and hate, I wanted to create a moment of sensitive quiet... make a film that would bring even today's cynical audience a feeling of happy tears,".
And it is hard to agree that this was done, and very well.
The question is, what is it that made us cry. The story? The acting, which is so tight and sturdy.? Or the quiet, unobtrusive, shooting style, that
allows us to see a full person, going through their own catharsis.? Or is it all of the above.?
Unlike many films, which tend to cut into a tighter detail of faces, when the stuff gets more emotional, a trick that gets us more involved in one character, this film tends to avoid this, as we would have to get involved with too many people, and our attentions would get divided. So it "averages" things out. We never get to see more tears on one than we do on the other, and we get to see full faces almost all the time, and with the background and others visible, the story becomes slightly less personal, and a bit more universal, or in this case, more communal.
This is the story of a convent that is going about its business, until one day, someone leaves a child at their doorstep. After some debate, the mother superior finally agrees to take on the child. And the debate is fierce, and only comes alive after the regular doctor is summoned to check the child. The doctor, adds his two cents worth and finally convinces them that they should do it, not for God's sakes but for humanity's sakes.... is it the child's fault, asks he.?
And eighteen years later, the nuns have to deal with the fact that the young girl has grown up, has met someone, and is going to marry him. And this is when the film begins to really shine. The convent can not force its ways onto the child, and the young girl, despite only knowing one set of parents, all the nuns, does have her mind set on going. Eventually she does, but not before a stirring ending sequence, that will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the nicest, softest, and pretties things ever filmed. It takes courage to direct and film it in this style, stark, "naked", in front of the camera, which is not moving like they are not -- a sort of standing their ground --, and in the process generate
a lot of emotional upheaval. The nuns are sad that they are losing a daughter whom they have come to love. And the doctor, another story altogether, is losing the sight of another nun, whom he loved, and cared about so specially. His age, finally shows up, and it almost looks like it is his last time here.
In between, are several things, which make the film special. The doctor is the only man in the film, the young man in the end aside as much of a non-character, and he has to survive not only visiting the nuns, but withstanding their assault on his reason. But a nice, mother superior whom he understands well, and likes him, helps the situation. They have a love between them that is hard to let go, and the film uses their exchanges of looks as the signal. And there are a few lines that magnify those moments. It is the look of the moment that makes it so special... and
likewise we get this in the ending.
With outstanding performances, in difficult extremely contained roles, this excellent film just moves along. Never really boring, but turning at each corner, quietly, softly... and then making us miss it all in the end. And we get caught in the avalanche of tears.
It is a very happy film, by all means, but just differently so. It's just a shame that something like this does not get shown a little more so people could see what acting of the superior kind can really do. This is a masterful film, by someone who obviously knows what he is doing. It's just a shame that few will notice a film like this.
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