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Fascinating film that uses contemporary Spain as a backdrop for a look at the evil in the world; the repercussions of that evil and a further study of morals.
La Noche de los Girasoles, or The Night of the Sunflowers in English, is quite clearly a product of some of contemporary cinema's more recent efforts. The film takes inspiration from, and pays homage to, a number of quality offerings from around Europe and The United States from recent times, while delivering an experience that flicks from the slow burning and ominous to the fast paced and shocking. All this within the realm of a crime-fused world of noir. The film is a quite gripping tale about desperate people in a predicament they should not and do not deserve to be in. But the film adopts a multi-strand approach, although maintains its study of circulation rather well for good measure. The film won me over for its look at greed, retribution, corruption, honour, vigilantism and desperation on a couple of character fronts.
The film can be best summed up by observing the opening twenty minutes and closing five. The same individual, whom the film opens and closes with, ambles through the world doing whatever depraved activity he is driven to do, but has no idea of the repercussions they entail. The attitude is a sort of nonchalant one; an attitude that disregards life and what devastation erupts in the wake of it. These emotions and ideas are ones that crop up at various points with a couple of people, most notably individuals to do with disguising a murder and accepting money on an immoral level. These events that are born out of a prior, negative catalyst are created and further spawn scenarios that could lead to further evil or wrong doing. The overall feeling is that evil spawns an event that could spawn further evil and that could spawn an event that might induce evil still. The underlying feeling is that this film looks at a butterfly effect born out of Pandora's Box being opened up.
Some of the primary characters in the film are potholers and their task is to explore a recently found cave discovered within a rural Spanish community. This is where the overall iconography to do with the film's study enters the fray. Director Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo has his characters descend into this dank, grimy, cold, unknown and uncharted space. It's here I feel he draws on parallels with Spain as a nation. His film will be one that goes into Spain as a rural and 'unseen by the tourists' location, an unearthing and a real look at whatever cold and shallow activity, feeling and people lurk within. It is a look at a place no one else ever sees or has seen before. It is iconic of sorts that the location of the cave is used to hide the evidence that bring normal, abiding people down to the level of criminals. This supports the general theory that, if you look hard enough in the most natural and desolate of areas, you may well still be able to find wrongdoing.
The film, a Spanish one that continues the recent ascent of cinema in that respective nation, begins with a lone male individual driving to a certain destination. The emphasis on his gaze at a younger girl and the dead body found in the field at the very beginning creates a dangerous image in our minds that this discovery and this man's observing of certain things will only lead to later disaster. Without wanting to give too much away, the film breaks off after its catalyst and draws on themes from 2002's Irréversible, as a film displaying the shocking repercussions individuals realise they are capable of when someone they dearly love is harmed. The film is very briefly a look at raw human emotion as the distinct love for someone boils up with anger and hatred at the person responsible for her harm. A person's limits are tested; what they're prepared to do is pushed and, like Irréversible, it culminates in the murder of someone.
Running along-side this tangent is a young local policeman named Tomás (Romero), the same individual who happens to stumble across the potholers and their dead body scenario. His crime within this observant world of sin and evil born out of evil is greed. While initially aiding the innocents caught in the web, in a sort of role reminiscent of Pulp Fiction's clean up man 'The Wolf', the young policeman very quickly becomes aware that he is able to turn these seemingly innocent people in, but will not for a large price. Finally, the film calls on the Coen brothers' masterpiece Fargo when Amadeo (Bugallo), an aging and steady headed police man, is forced into putting all the corruption and wrongdoing together alá the character of Marge Gunderson in said film.
I do think The Night of the Sunflowers is genuinely a good film; a film that looks at fate and the evil born out of evil and how certain events and emotions can bring mankind down a level at times of desperation. Sunflowers, as a plant, can keep on growing up and up, spiralling out of control. If this is the 'night of the sunflowers', then it is a time during which scenarios can rapidly grow out of control. Only, it is the human beings in the film that adopt the role of the sunflowers as their emotions and inner-greed aid in the progression of evil and wrong-doing.
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