A woman returning home falls asleep and has vivid dreams that may or may not be happening in reality. Through repetitive images and complete mismatching of the objective view of time and space, her dark inner desires play out on-screen.
A surrealistic documentary portrait of the region of Las Hurdes, a remote region of Spain where civilisation has barely developed, showing how the local peasants try to survive without even the most basic utilities and skills.
A commissioned work, this wasn't only disliked by the producers who hired him, as a result possibly edited without his consent to its final form (Michael Temple on the Criterion commentary track suggests that perhaps Jean Renoir was one of the directors called in), this was reportedly disavowed by Vigo himself, who apparently said that he only liked the underwater footage.
In many respects this is an experiment on various cinematic techniques: Vigo had already utilized and mastered the use of slow-motion in "À propos de Nice" (1930); here he uses transposed images and reversed footage in addition to some exquisite slow-motion of Taris swimming in the water. (Temple points out that the underwater shot of Taris goofing around is a laboratory of sorts for "L'Atalante" (1934), which would use an almost similar underwater shot)
But this is transcendental in the sense Vigo sees both water and the human body, like a sculpture come to life. Water, one of the most cinematic things in the whole world, is a character of its own here. It's the kingdom whose king Taris is, as implied in the title. In that sense this is also a fête of the human body and its power over the element.
And, most important, it's fun.
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