This review arose from a screening at Cambridge Film Festival - Cambridge, UK - between 19 and 29 September 2013
* Contains spoilers *
Eyes on the Sky (Mirant al Cel) (2008) is not an overtly flashy film, but deservedly it does make big claims on our attention, and on our hearts. As can be seen, it was being shown not because it was made in the last year, but it is a UK premiere, part of the Catalan strand, again curated by Ramon Lamarca after a successful first appearance at the Festival last year, which made many friends.
I wrote about another Catalan film at the Festival (also a UK premiere), The Redemption of the Fish, which I watched twice, and I would if possible gladly have done the same with this film, but it is quality that the films have in common, not their subject-matter.
This one concerns the Spanish Civil War and the power of memory what is best forgotten about when Italian air forces bombed Barcelona, and what should never be forgotten. One review that I read challenges how the film is put together, and its story and pace, but, for me, these are what most attracted me to it, for it uses acted scenes, documentary, and faux-documentary, e.g. to introduce the men who were in the anti-aircraft batteries that ringed the city on a number of eminences.
We see men and women, down in the shelters and tunnels that also served to wait out air-raids, interviewed by the same woman who challenges a visiting professor, apparently a Dante scholar and visiting for a conference, and pesters to get to speak to him what some mistake for the monotonous course of this film is actually provoking us to ask ourselves (if we have not just read up all about it beforehand, which I avoid*) what is real, what is not, and what remembered, what feigned forgetfulness.
In this, we are as much in a confused state as the main characters (Maria (Gabriela Flores) and Mario (Paolo Ferrari), played with great conviction), who think that they know what is right, and not preconception, until life throws them up in each other's way. After all that we have seen and heard, the closing scenes, and the beautiful reading that the professor gives from the opening of the Inferno, are painfully touching, speaking for all who have been lost.
For the second time this Festival, I was moved to tears just by that simplicity.
* My approach to a film is that it should, for good or ill, stand for itself : if I need to have read the book or play on which it is based, it has failed in its own terms, and, if it cannot speak for itself, it is just images.
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