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The film has received a lot of criticism for not being true to the
book. Adapting novels is no easy task especially when you have to fit
it into a 100 minute. I haven't read the novel and based on what I've
seen of this film, I don't think it's as bad as a majority have called
it. I do agree that it could have been a lot more. The film could have
further explored the tension and terror of the Franco regime. The angle
with the daughter and her boyfriend is very poorly developed.
In the end, the focus of Rafael Azcona's script is on the infatuation of a young deacon and Elena and Ricardo's attempt to live together in secret. The infatuation theme is well explored. The character Salvatore is constantly in doubt and gives in to temptation which eventually gets the better of him. Ricardo is presumed dead or escaped. He continues to write against the regime in secrecy. The conflicts that arise between him and his wife and his own anguish and struggle could have been further developed.
The plus is that 'Los Girasoles Ciegos' is a well made film on the technical side. It 'looks' clean. The polished sets, costumes, locations etc are nice to look at. The score is pretty good too. This film does provide some insight(albeit a toned down one) to those who know very little about Spain under Franco's power.
The performances stand out. Maribel Verdú does a fine job as the wife struggling to hide her husband, to maintain the family secrecy and deal with the deacon's infatuation. The role itself is a little bleak but Verdú manages to rise above it. The Ricardo character is sketchy but Javier Cámara does the best he can. Raul Arévalo is brilliant in a complex role.
Given the source, 'Los Girasoles Ciegos' had potential. However, as a standalone film, in my opinion, it's not a complete failure as I found it to be quite a watchable film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The triumph of Franco in Spain brought about a repression toward anyone
that were considered communist. Intolerance from the church, which
allied itself with the winners, took a hard line in order to defend
their new reality in the country. Many opponents to the regime had to
go to an exile that took them away from their country because of their
Basically, this is the essence of Alberto Mendez's novel, that dealt in those difficult days the country lived after the war. We are presented a family that have to live in a small town where a father, Ricardo, has to hide from the Gestapo-like police, to save his own life. The wife, Elena, must try to live as normal life as she can, but instead of the quiet life she is looking for, trouble comes her way in an unexpected way.
Salvador, the young seminarian, is a man with a troubled heart. He has been sent to the small town where Elena and her family are trying to live. To make matters worse, Salvador, who is the teacher of Lorenzo, Elena's young son, takes an interest in the beautiful mother. He is a hypocrite that cannot control his carnal impulses and tries to force himself upon her, causing the tragedy that will be the ruin of this family.
Jose Luis Cuerda, the director, also helped Rafael Azcona to adapt the novel to the screen. Like every film about the Spanish Civil War, the Spanish directors, feel they are breaking new ground about the turmoil the conflict caused the Spanish people that had to live those terrible years. The director's feelings are on the side of the ones defeated that had to live the terrible ordeal.
Maribel Verdu deserves better. She is a good actress, but the script, like in most Spanish films makes her the object of desire by the unscrupulous Salvador. Javier Camera does not have anything to do as Ricardo. Raul Arevalo's Salvador makes the most of his role in a film that goes nowhere.
It is set in 1940 Orense , Galicia , there appears a Seminarist ,
Salvador : Raúl Arevalo , who has participated in the Spanish Civil War
and has a dark past as a soldier . Salvador comes to a school to teach
kiddies , one of them is Lorenzo : Roger Princep . The little boy
Lorenzo lives with his mother Elena , Maribel Verdu , and his hidden
father Ricardo : Javier Cámara , who is locked at home attempting to
avoid be chased . Furthermore , their daughter Elena : Irene Escolar ,
about to escape with Lalo : Martiño Rivas , a pursued communist.
Intense drama dealing with the consequences of Spanish war (1936-39) about an undercover family whose father is living hidden at a flat , as he is pursued by the Francoist authorities . This one turns out to be another film upon Civil War and Francisco Franco period , usual themes in Spanish Film history . Last screenplay by the great Rafael Azcona considered to be the best writer of the Spaniard cinema and based on a successful novel by Alberto Méndez . The cast gives acceptable interpretations as Raul Arevalo as a confused priest who arrives in Orense after fighting in the war front , Javier Cámara as a professor who spends several years hidden at home attempting to flee from an obstinate persecution . Maribel Verdú delivers a passable interpretation , but overacting at times , she suggested Raúl Arévalo for the main character . There are interesting scenes , especially the provoking dialog between Salvador/Raúl Arevalo , and the priest/Jose Angel Egido . However , some scenes between Arevalo and Maribel Verdú result to be embarrassing . Both of them do not deliver the necessary chemical . In addition , the secondary plot line about the young daughter and her lover does not fit to script . Evocative settings , being perfectly set in its period . Colorful and atmospheric cinematography by Hans Burmann . The great cameraman Hans Burmann has a long career from the sixties to present-day, including successes as ¨Bearn¨ , ¨Guantanamera¨ , ¨Rey Pasmado¨ , ¨Gitanos¨ , ¨Open you eyes¨ and ¨Tesis¨. Emotive and sensitive musical score by Lucio Godoy.
The motion picture ¨The blind sunflowers¨ (international title) was professional but regularly directed by José Luis Cuerda , and it was Spain's 2009 Academy Awards official submission to Foreign-Language Film category. It won several Goya Awards 2009 as Goya Best Adapted Screenplay : Rafael Azcona , José Luis Cuerda , Goya Best Lead Actor : Raúl Arévalo , Best Lead Actress : Maribel Verdú , Best Supporting Actor José Ángel Egido , Best New Actor : Martiño Rivas , Best Director : José Luis Cuerda , Best Cinematography : Hans Burmann , Best Editing : Nacho Ruiz Capillas , Best Production Design : Balter Gallart . And Spanish Actors Union won : Performance in a Minor Role, Male : José Ángel Egido . And Cartagena Film Festival 2009 won Golden India Catalina Best Director : José Luis Cuerda and Best Supporting Actor : Roger Príncep . Besides , Cinema Writers Circle Awards , Spain 2009 CEC Award Best Actress : Maribel Verdú . José Luis Cuerda is a veteran craftsman , being his film debut ¨Pares Y Nones¨ , a typical Madrid comedy . He subsequently directed ¨El Bosque Animado¨ that achieved enough success . He followed directing flops as ¨Viuda De Capitán Estrada and ¨Tocando Fondo¨ . His biggest hit was ¨Amanece Qué No es Poco¨ and its sequel ¨Así En El Cielo Cómo En La Tierra¨.
I saw this last month at the 2009 Palm Springs International Film Festival. The screenplay by the late Rafael Azcona was adapted from the widely popular Alberto Mendez novel and the setting is northern Spain in the immediate post Spanish Civil War period. Elena (Maribel Verdu) has assumed the role of head of the household as her left wing school teacher husband Ricardo (Javier Camera) is being south by the right wing government and is believed by them to have been killed but in fact he is in hiding in the house. Another left wing fugitive is Lalo (Martin Rivas) who has also been hiding in the home but now must flee to the safety of the Portugal border with his pregnant wife and daughter of Elena and Ricardo, Elenita (Irene Escolar). Elena and Ricardo's youngest child Lorenzo (Roger Princep) is enrolled in a catholic school where his teacher Salvador (Raul Arevalo) is a former military conscript who has returned to studying for the priesthood and is a part-time school teacher and sympathetic to the right wing government. He also is obsessed with the beautiful and supposedly widowed Elena and is torn between trying to win her affections or becoming a priest. From director Jose Luis Cuerda it offers nice cinematography from veteran Hans Burman and beautiful art direction from Baltasar Gallart but it's nothing more than a made for TV movie like you might find on Lifetime. I'm sure the film must have fallen far short of the novel. It comes across as forced, silly and even laughable in places where it isn't supposed to be funny. I suggest you pass on it and I would give it a 5.5 out of 10.
Galicia, 1940. When "Elena" (Maribel Verdú) closes the door of his
house, closes with her great secrecy. At the same time that survives
the rigors of the Spanish post-civil war, "Elena" keeps next to his son
"Lorenzo" (Roger Princep) a facade of the appearance to hide the truth
about his family: "Elenita" (Irene School), her teenage daughter,
pregnant, has escaped with her boyfriend "Lalo" (Martin Rivas), a young
man who takes months in the lists of the police; and "Ricardo" (Javier
Cámara), her husband, lives hidden in a hole manufactured in the
bedroom. If that were recently, the emergence of "Salvador" (Raul
Arévalo), a deacon with doubts about his imminent priesthood,
We are in front of a film, a history or historical circumstances real surrounding it, that account something that appeals very directly to the heart of the viewer. It is very difficult not to feel sympathies or antipathies by the real people who may be behind the characters in fiction. In this way, it is easy to enter in the world that we describes and, consequently, watching the film with sympathy, forgive their judgments and judged positively or, at least, with benevolence.
But the impression that leaves me at the end is that of a cinematic history failed by a dash little solid and confusing. Without reaching the heights of the literary, Rafael Azcona (his last script), and Jose Luis Cuerda, take various brush strokes of the story of the novel by Alberto Mendez. We deserve special attention by the background of their words and writing of the dialogs, the scenes between Raul Arevalo and Jose Angel Egido.
But the impression that leaves me at the end is that of a cinematic history failed by a dash little solid and confusing. Without reaching the heights of the literary, Rafael Azcona (his last indent), and Jose Luis Cuerda, take various brush strokes of the story of the novel by Alberto Mendez. The scenes between Raul Arevalo and Jose Angel Egido, deserve special attention by the background of its words and writing of the dialogs.
"Ricardo" (Javier Cámara), despite being a character of enormous suffering, Cámara fails to transmit the viewer. It's a work failed.
Maribel Verdú, to which the irony has put the orders of the same director who rejected of young girl in a casting, arguing that it was too beautiful, and to point was to reject now by too flaca. So it, even with hips dentures including to be as voluptuous that requires his character, we offer with her excellent performance.
If, however, we can say that "Los Girasoles ciegos" has a meticulous and well set staging. It is a huge penalty that this is the last legacy of Rafael Azcona but films like "Plácido", "El verdugo" or "La grande bouffe" will pay tribute that this great author it deserves.
It's inevitable the feeling that it could have achieved far more merit to this argument, in addition to not be well counted, the secondary plot to the teenage daughter, fits very badly in the script, and is not well used. The general set of the film is simply acceptable.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Once again, the postwar period is used as stage for a good movie with magnificent actors who turn it into a big one, giving life to prominent figures who fight to survive, trying to give sense to their acts, no matter what. It is true that Javier Cámara's jump turns out to be artificial, maybe because he does not spread himself in dramatic quality and goes to the practical thing, but Maribel Verdú, in her better moment of the movie, reduces the fault completely. We have an adaptation that focuses on the conflict of one of the main characters of the original tale. The totally corrupted by the war morality of the religious man (something that reminds me to the soldier men of In Elah's Valley) If they had focused, for example, on the confinement of the husband, we would have another thing, better or worse, we do not know it, but it would be already another story. By the way, the child asks this question because he does not see the suicide. Is just the woman who runs towards the room when the husband says goodbye.
A Spanish post-war drama directed by Jose Luis Cuerda and based on the
novel of Alberto Mendez of the same title.
The story is set in the Spanish city of Orense, in Northern Spain, in the 1940s, and tells the story of a family of communists struggling to survive after the victory of the fascists in 1939. The father Ricardo -played by Javier Camera- declared dead, lives hidden in the family basement with his subversive and prohibited books, and types works on his wife's behalf to earn some money. The mother, Elena -played by Maribel Verdu- lives and acts as a widow who makes ends meet by sewing and typing. Their teenage daughter Elenita and her boyfriend Lalo -played by Irene Escolar and Martin Rivas- are involved in guerrilla activities but try to escape the country, while child Lorenzo -played by Roger Princep- goes to the children school in town. There, Gonzalo gets the eye of Fr Salvador -played by Raul Arevalo- a seminarian and fascist ex-soldier who feels immediately attracted to Elena.
The script is mediocre with stereotypical characters, predictable plot and events, and, most importantly, without emotion or heart. A soulless movie despite telling a story that should be moving and thought-provoking, and it ends being just pretentious. Nothing new in the exploration of the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War.
Regarding the acting, Maribel Verdú and Javier Camera do not believe what they are playing, and their performances are mediocre, much below their acting abilities and quality. Raul Arevalo is good in his portray of the confused tempted priest. The rest of the supporting actors are OK in their roles, but child Roger Princep was awful to watch.
There is nothing excellent or memorable about the film, just mediocrity. To be honest, the things I liked the most about this film were its atmosphere, the views of the Orense's city, and the title. While watching this movie I thought of a similar movie which, instead, showed all what this lacked in this - the Butterfly's Tongue.
Despite the script being so poor, perhaps because the novel was not, the scriptwriters won a Goya -the Spanish Oscar- to the best script in 2008. The movie was also selected to represent the Spanish cinema in the Oscars in the same year, but did not make the final cut.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is based in a very famous book published in Spain with the same title. The book is really hard and very moving. I know many people who has cried reading it, and that's really complicated. The film, on the contrary, leaves apart the hardest chapters of the books and they only appeared at a tangential way. So, the story focused on the problems of a priest-soldier and practically the whole 100 minutes are about this boring character and his boring conversations. I'm really sorry about the result, because there were many great expectations about this movie in Spain. Everything is bad in the movie and reminds all the worst of Spanish Cinema. For instance, the scene when the hidden father jumped through the window to suicide is absolutely surrealistic with the boy (it is supposed he is clever) asking his mother why is she crying. "'Cause your father has killed himself! Didn't you notice?" The mother should have answered that to the boy to make the scene even more surrealistic, or just to turn it directly into a comedy. A missed opportunity to create a great movie with a great story. Just for the record, none, absolutely no one wept at the crowded press preview, not even a singe teardrop.
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