Spain Cinema in the 2000’s
The cinematographic panorama in Spain in the 2000s confirmed the visionary vein, sometimes baroque, typical of this cinema, which went into the fantastic-grotesque excesses of the horror genre with the films of Álex de la Iglesia (Balada triste de trompeta, 2010, Ballad of hate and love, set in a circus during the Spanish Civil War, and Las brujas de Zugarramurdi, 2013, The witches are back, populated by strange witches), or with those of Jaume Balagueró (Darkness, 2002, and the Rec, 2007-14). The leading exponent of the previous generation, Pedro Almodóvar, continued with his poetics in the balance between melodrama and black comedy, with the dramatic tones of Hable con ella (2002; Parla con lei) and Los abrazos rotos (2009; Broken embraces) , the thrillers of La piel que habito (2011; The skin that I live in), the grotesque ones of Volver (2006) and Los amantes pasajeros (2013; Passenger lovers), returning to the favorite theme of sexual identity with La mala educación (2004 ). New authors have emerged such as Sergio Caballero with Finisterrae (2010), disturbing ghost story, Agustí Villaronga with Pa negre (2010), a journey through the infantile unconscious in the form of a psychological thriller, and Jaime Rosales, with La soledad (2007), Sueño y silencio (2012), Hermosa juventud (2014).
It is therefore on the side of auteur cinema, formal rigor and theoretical awareness (in which the example of Victor Erice, n. 1940 is still very important), that Spanish cinema continues to prove vital. In fact, Erice has confirmed himself as the author, in recent years, of short as well as dazzling works, which while testing the potential of the cinematographic image, developing an implicit and vibrant theoretical discourse, formulate an all-round narrative, between history and poetry, as happens in the Lifeline segment of 2002, included in the collective film Ten minutes older: the trumpet, ‘clockwork’ meditation (the images are marked according to a precise metric) on the themes of the transience of life, childhood, war and the aggregation of people (family, village) that repairs and saves. Concept of aggregation that also concerns the episode Vidros partidos merged into the feature film Centro histórico (2012), whose other episodes are signed by Aki Kaurismäki, Pedro Costa, Manoel De Oliveira. This is a documentary on the closure of a Portuguese fabric factory, in which interviews with former workers alternate and panoramic photos of workers at work, according to a procedure (filming the stillness of the photographs) already evident in the short film La morte rouge (2006), but which belongs to Erice at least since the time of El sol del membrillo (1992), which showed the obsession of the painter who hopes to freeze the ineffable moment, its essence, on the canvas, as opposed to movement (dramatically elusive). Between stillness (the photos of a cinema and a childhood city) and the natural movement of the filmic image (for example, the waves of the sea that bathe the beach of San Sebastian) there is the cinematic dimension of Morte rouge ; a completely imaginative dimension, made up of ghosts and characters who do not fail to terrify and excite precisely on the basis of their falsity and virtuality, which, moreover, multiply due to the concentricity of the screens (with constant reference to other real or fictional films), as if they were mirrors, spaces of figuration and refraction. In Morte rouge it is the director himself who recalls in first person the moment and the consequences of his first cinematic vision, as a child, of the film The scarlet claw (1944; The scarlet claw) by Roy William Neill, with the consequent enchantment corollary and horror. For Spain 2009, please check hyperrestaurant.com.
In harmony with this rigor and with an even more explicit theoretical reflection, is the cinema of the Catalan Albert Serra (b. 1975), who made his debut in the feature film in 2003 with the docufiction Crespià which already shows part of the characters that will later become the more mature Serra. Graduated in Spanish philology and literature, Serra immediately directed his cinema towards a reinterpretation of European myths and literature, from Don Quixote to the Magi, to Dracula, removing them from traditional iconography. A composite story is precisely that of Crespià, on whose documentary basis is grafted the narrative artifice of characters and situations, closed in the perimeter of a rural village in the summer of 1983. Between documentary, musical and strange comedy, the film follows the events of the residents of Crespià, the friendship that is established between some of them; the rite of threshing, the extra-country parties, the sudden and comic dances, the ramshackle rock music concerts; all a discontinuous schedule that starting from the subsequent Honor de Cavalleria (2006) will improve in the sense of homogeneity and rarefaction of the register and landscape. What emerges most strongly from Serra’s second film is the extreme realism, up to the minimalism of the staging (the director himself referred to Robert Bresson and Yasujiro Ozu in some interviews) and the homogeneous, bare, bordering panorama of the abstraction in which Don Quixote and Sancho move (and which will be taken up later in El senyor ha fet en mi marvelelles, a sort of making off of Honor de cavalry, film-letter addressed to the Argentine director Lisandro Alonso in 2011); characters drawn from the traditional imaginary and now inserted in a context made of stasis, silences and tired dialogues. This seems to be the research that Serra intended to carry out from then on and declined with even greater intensity (as well as theoretical implications) in El cant dels ocells (2008) in which that minimalism already used previously finds its new and integral structure in white. and black (Serra seems to work by subtraction, so he also removes color from his imagination). And in fact, after the two experiences of Els noms de Crist in 2010 (a television series that focuses on productive and creative issues) and El senyor ha fet en mi marvelelles, the film Història de la meva mort (2013) seems to highlight with even greater force the filmic event, the pure visual, identifiable, in the last instance, with the lawn, the field, the barren ground that is Serra’s first topos and already was present in Honor de cavalleria: that is, not far from Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s thesis on the phenomenology of perception, the coincidence of the cinematographic form (the style) with the background of the image that surpasses (a material made of color, light, chiaroscuro).
In this sense, El Futuro (2013) by Luis López Carrasco, former member of the collective of experimental directors Los Hijos with whom in 2008 he shot the short film El sol en el sol del membrillo, obviously of Erician ancestry precisely in investigating the origin and the particular transience of the moving image. El Futuro, the first film directed by López Carrasco alone, blends narrative invention, historical report (albeit off-screen), reflection on the filmic process, and, starting from the representation of a party among young people set in 1982 (therefore not very far from that 1983 by Crespià), just after the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, comes to criticize contemporary consumerism (in a montage that alternates past and future), through a cinematographic structure that prefers low resolution both images and sound.