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Monday, August 29, 2011

"Black Bread", the monsters of Spanish Civil War

Black Bread (Pa Negre, Catalan original title)

I had two enormous prejudices about "Black Bread".

The first prejudice was the suspicion the film was going to be another one on Spanish Civil War, a recurrent (usually bad and maniqueist, just remember who won the war) topic of Spanish filmography. But it would be a very unfair judgement to consider "Black Bread" as that. No, the film is a pretty disturbing analysis on the worst of mankind, setted in the harsh post-Civil war years' Catalan countryside. Its not about the war, but about the monsters war creates.

In that sense, the exploration of Spanish darkest hour, the film excels. The small rural town portrayed in "Black Bread", an oppresive microcosmos, is poignant, disturbing, sinister and merciless. From the brutal start (hard to remember an opening scene so shocking in Spanish cinema) to the knockout final scene, we see human beings completely carried away by the side they took during the war, with no sense of compassion or understanding. They live miserably, and behave miserably. The visuals and atmosphere director's Agustí Villaronga is capable of create are an outstanding achievement, with several powerful scenes, full of symbolism, in which he depicts brilliantly poverty, the open wounds of Spanish Civil War and the worst part of mankind. It puzzles you. It Hits you.

But then comes my second prejudice, the fear of being in front of another movie with "a kid". Unfortunately, that is the case. Because in my opinion, if "Black Bread" doesn't fulfill its promises is due to the starring character, Andreu, played with fierce conviction by Franscesc Colomer. First and foremost, because it was really hard for me to believe that such a small kid could assume and deal with everything that happens in the film, in particular with regards with his family. His knowledge, determination and quest towards the terrible revelations and lies the world of adults offers him is simply too much for a kid to understand. Won't say anything about the final scene.

And connected with the previous point, as the film is structured around Andreu's search, "Black Bread" becomes a somber, unusual, but at the same time somewhat typical (in terms of sctructure) adventure film where mistery has to be resolved. So there goes the tension scene where Andreu finds something upstairs, next scene he meets that important someone walking through the woods. The script, based on Emili Teixidor's book, at least the superficial script, is ages behind the power of visuals, the imagery, of the movie.

I understand the nine Goyas and recognize the values of subverting the usual Spanish Civil War film, and I applaud the magnificent artistical and visual work done by Villaronga and his crew. The power of "Black Bread" is unparelled in that regard. But it is an unsatisfaying work, mainly because the script wants to be many things at the same time.

SCORE: 6,25/10

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