A highly difficult job more or less carried out successfully
Based on a novel of a classical architecture which ventured into a neorrealist style reaching out for new linguistic possibilities, frequently resorting to prosaic euphemisms and extreme baroquisms and incurring in a few ungainly metaphorisms. Luis Martín-Santos wrote the book in 1961; a psychiatrist by profession he sought to analyse his characters I nearly wrote `victims' from a coldly elevated level, and in so doing he plunged into an abstract world of grandiloquent verbosity, breaking away from the standard set-piece language of Spanish literature of the time. Various narrators are used for different scene shifts. All this is plainly difficult to transpose onto the screen.
Pedro is a scientist working in a laboratory investigating the carcinogenic glands of a curious strain of Illinois rats. These rats are bred in a shanty town on the outskirts of Madrid, where he is called one night to help save a girl who is dying from a badly carried out abortion attempt. From here on Pedro falls into helplessness as a `time of silence' takes over his life. Moving from the sordid life of shanty dwellings to the hypocracy of the then middle classes such as in the lodging house or in the home of his friend Matias' parents and to the veneered essence of supposed luxury and wealth in the brothel, the film endeavours to catch at least the social ambientation of the times, and does so fairly well mostly. However there is also that something which is always missing when literature is turned into a film. Never more so than here, as the curious style of Martín-Santos cannot really be touched apon in this or any other screen adaptation.
For the intelligent reader who has read the book and understood all its implicit meanings, this film survives fairly well on its own merits as a rather risky incursion into cinematographic formulas. Vicente Aranda and the main actors have carried off the job reasonably well and the result should not be disdained.
7 of 9 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?