La Soledad

La Soledad

****1/2

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

This is an amazing film, but it won't be for everyone. It hinges on a central conceit that weighs heavily, but if it can be accepted it is the key to a work of staggering power.

The central performances, if this film can be said to have a centre, are stunning. Sonia Almarcha is Adela, a single mother, and Antonia (Petra Martínez) a mother of three, now stepping out with Manolo, gently played by Jesús Cracio.

Copy picture

In four distinct chapters, La Soledad follows these two women through their lives, mapping out their relationships, showing us the people that matter to them, and slowly tying their lives together. Key is Inés, played with subtlety and depth by Miriam Correa. She is Adela's flatmate, Antonia's middle daughter. Time passes. Things happen.

This isn't conventional film-making, at least as modern audiences understand it. The camera is fixed, with action that slips from the screen and round corners and up and down stairs. The audience's viewpoint is always a fixed thing, a solid absorbing gaze. Sometimes it is in a camera car, but still it does not move, save for the gentle undulation of the road. Nary a pan, nor a tilt, nor a zoom.

Around it, the actors move with a realism greater than documentary. This is fly in the wall where those observed are pretending not to see the camera with enough skill that we believe them. It is hyper-real, documentary honesty in fiction.

The central conceit requires cooperation, and while the camera does not deviate it does split, dazzlingly so. An early scene splits our view between kitchen and hall, the geography of the screen bearing no relation to the physical arrangement of the spaces. Yet it does enough, more, even, to draw the viewer in. Conversations where we see both participants, shots where all we encounter of the action are the noises that carry into the hall. There is no score, no sense of haste. This is elegiac film-making, verging on slow. The sedate pace draws the eye, weaving a spell that draws the audience further and further into its power.

When there is action, when things happen, it is stunning, a sudden wrench from the prosaic, the quotidian, into shock. The film takes its time reestablishing equilibrium, but the unblinking eye of the camera remains focused.

The fact that this is in Spanish goes some way towards encouraging the audience to buy into the presentation. Every element of this film is dedicated to this goal - these are pictures of lives, as the title has it, solitary fragments, which are assembled by the audience into an astonishing whole.

Reviewed on: 16 Aug 2007
Share this with others on...
La Soledad packshot
The lives of two women are changed forever by terrorist bombings in Madrid.
Amazon link

Director: Jaime Rosales

Writer: Jaime Rosales, Enric Rufas

Starring: Sonia Almarcha, Petra Martínez, Jesús Cracio, Miriam Correa

Year: 2007

Runtime: 130 minutes

Country: Spain

Festivals:

EIFF 2007
Viva 2008

Search database:


If you like this, try:

The Lives Of Others
Talk To Her