Anyone who enjoyed Lord of the Flies or the Blair Witch Project should admire this chilling Spanish psychodrama, which is better than either. A few men are gathered for a day's rabbit hunting; it becomes apparent that they are well-to-do veterans of the Spanish Civil War. The place looks as desolate and barren as it is possible to imagine, and the heat is obviously intense. The men have memories of this godforsaken gulch, since it was a battlefield in the Civil War. As the day goes on, the scorching sun frays the men's nerves and sends them toward delirium, bringing out their inner weaknesses and their personal conflicts, normally concealed beneath a veneer of politeness. The end comes suddenly.
There allusions to the apocalypse (Luis is a poetical spirit who likes quoting Revelations, as well as science fiction). The setting is reminiscent of Ezekiel's valley of dry bones; Saura is wise enough to draw this analogy visually, without openly stating it. These men have great burdens on their consciences, which they are loath to admit, and they will pay dearly. A younger man invited along points up the contrast; he wasn't involved in the Civil War, or shady business dealings, so he is naïve and open.
One thing that makes this movie superior to the stuff we normally see is the lack of superfluous dialogue; there are long patches where subtle gestures or metaphorical images are allowed to speak for themselves. Even the music is restricted to a few muffled drumbeats or chimes, and these are used sparingly. This is a low-budget masterpiece which deserves comparison in style to The Isle (2000).
My only criticism is that the beginning is a bit slow; but you'll certainly get into it if you sit through the first ten minutes.
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