On children III

film 3 of 3

Cria Cuervos

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 10, 2015

This movie is split a bit, somewhat divided against itself. Is it disrespectful, or ungrateful to say that the fascist parts—the way that uniformed men behave, the father figure, with his preposterous demise—are somewhat strained? With the exception of the interestingly neurotic Geraldine Chaplin character, the adults seem stick figures, or strained abstractions. (I guess that aunt, who finds herself in a tough situation, is also an exception. And the thing with the maid’s bosoms is actually kind of great, I think. Touching upon the mysteries of womanliness…)

On the other side of the ledger, though, we have these children. At first it appears that they’re straining to continue the spooky watchfulness of Ms. Torrent’s earlier contributions to Victor Erice’s The Spirit of the Beehive (q.v.). That’s true, but she’s also a bit older now, and they soon find more and more interesting things to do with her. There are numerous moments where she, and the girls playing her sisters, register very powerfully, partly as the girls they really are, and partly as the characters they are plying. In a happy combination of more or less straight documentary material and craftily contrived subjectivity or poetry, director Carlos Saura really gets to the paradoxical combination of concreteness and impenetrable mystery that make up a child’s soul. More specifically, the Torrent/Ana character is a super character, a great example of the good child who is considered bad because of her frankness, imaginative life and independence. The hypocritical, hide-bound or plain anxious adults just don’t know what to do with her.

That José Luis Perales song—sung by Jeannette, we’re told—is something else. So tacky! Until you listen. Such arrangements. Things past, and maintained in the mind. Do we every really know, or remember, the inner life of a child? This striking production makes you think that maybe we do, or that we can create the next best thing to that knowledge.