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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I just watched this movie in the 3rd Spanish Film Festival in London.
Oh goodness, this movie is all over the place.
First the annoying voice over of the main character (Rodrigo) saying all this pompous nonsense, commits a cardinal sin in cinema, trying to explain with words what the director was unable to explain with cinematic language. If I wanted to read a script or a book, I would buy the script or the book. Utterly pointless and annoying to no end.
The relationships between the characters are badly drawn, one fails to see why the granddaughter (Octavia) is so angry with everybody around her, you can draw you own conclusions eventually, but the process of discovery is tiring and uninvolved because it is badly presented: if you want to build so much tension between 2 characters they need to be more often on screen together, not to have just a couple of incidental dialogues.
As for NY audiences not knowing about the conflict in question, well, sorry but any person with basic cultural awareness of the wider world should know about the Spanish Civil War and its most important references (1936, Guernica, General Franco and his fascist credentials, the Catholic Church support of Franco's regime, etc). The references in the movie are enough to understand the context where the characters live and lived, but perhaps the annoying voice-over detracts from this.
Also the scenes of "rebellion" of Octavia are utterly childish, nobody cares, nobody is shocked, which kind of rebellion is that? Octavia, the character after which the movie is named, has barely 2 or 3 scenes to herself, is pretty much ignored during the first half of the movie and all of the sudden she acquires some relative importance out of nowhere. Dismal character development.
Finally the political points made are handled without tact and have the stench of conspiracy theories, and are delivered, of course, by Rodrigo's voice over.
The music (some sacred religious stuff) begins to drill your skull after a while. How many times does the same piece of music need to be played in such a long movie? Numbing.
To be avoided frankly.
A film for grown ups. It is rare to find a production which attempts so
complicated a statement. While this makes OCTAVIA demanding viewing,
particularly for someone who doesn't speak its language, it remains a work
of high seriousness which goes a long way towards achieving it's
Key is the scene where Sola, returning to the family home after years of following a troubled international career, goes through his Stasi file (given him by cop Paul Naschy of all people) with his new wife and we get a potted history of the character and Spanish politics since the fifties.
The conflict is between the perceptions of Dona Lozano the Carlist matriarch who treasures the Salamanca family traditions and young, intermittently naked grand daughter Menh-Wai/ Octavia product of the (possibly forced) union of the nun daughter (terrific performance) and a jungle guerilla who she imagines is still financing his activities from the cocaine she and her friends use.
The situation is explored in a whole variety of situations and scenics which keep turning the audiences perceptions of the characters and their setting.
The ending, where the stone slab with the single word on it clunks into place, as Terenza Beganza and the orchestra provide the music which we've been hearing through the production, is a remarkably telling combination.
Great to see the way Spanish film can still finds space for players as diverse as Naschy and Lozano.
How much can you miss your town?. It depends if you are from a normal or a
special town. How can you miss what you had not done in your life?. It
depends on what you have done. Old rules on modern times. People who is
hidden from the past (life´s go on). Young Octavia trying to run away from
those rules and her mother´s past.
A very personal view of Salamanca by Patino, who are very inspired to show us how can you miss your place; and how, before or after, you must to face up with what you have done in your life.
Is it necessary for this director to load up this film with so much
political messages that for audiences outside of Spain are
If the Spanish directors could take a chill pill with their "oeuvre" they would be much better off. Take a look at one of some of the best of the current ones: Pedro Almodovar and Alejandro Amenabar, just to mention a couple, they make films that are accessible, light, entertaining, and at the same time are commercially successful.
What is the sense to knock the spectator dead with situations only familiar to the Spanish that confuse the viewer.? If the director would have heard the public's comments after this film was shown at the annual Spanish film festival at the Walter Reade in New York, he would have taken the next Iberia flight to Spain!
Talk about unevolved people: that crowd! Not only that, no one had a clue what the main conflict in the film was. And these are the so-called intellectual minds that attend basically all the films that are presented.
The best part was the way the camera captures the majesty of Salamanca in all its splendor and beauty. The story and the execution of it were as baffling to me as it was for the rest of the audience. It's a waste to have people like Miguel Angel Sola who had a stellar career in his native Argentina, act in this piece, or not even give Margarita Lozano or Antonia San Juan an opportunity to shine.
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