Monday, 9 July 2012

Cría Cuervos

Cría Cuervos - a film by Carlos Saura

This film was selected by Richard @ Caravana de Recuerdos as part of Spanish Literature month so I decided that I would try to get my hands on a copy in time to watch it. However, it was not to be. I found that it was to be released in a few months (it dates from 1976). However, having some time to myself last night I decided I would see if I could view it online and lo and behold, it seemed that I could. And so I settled down to watch.

..CONTAINS SPOILERS.. and much frustration.

The film opens with a pinboard of photographs, clearly a repository of a families' memories. This is to prove one of the major themes of the film, the nature of memory and it's instability. The photographs, we discover, are there for the grandmother, who is unable to speak but who enjoys looking at these windows into her past.

In the first scene we see Ana, eight, dressed in a white nightgown descend the stairs in a dark and gloomy house. She is like a ghost at her own party. She hears the sounds of lovemaking from her father's bedroom. These soon turn to the sounds of her father dying and a woman whispering his name with increasing concern. Then the woman leaves the room, hastily dressing, dropping and collecting items from her handbag while Ana looks on.

We soon find that the death of their father has orphaned Ana and her two sisters. Their mother has recently died, how recently we are unsure.  We are unsure because the film is somewhat cut loose in time. We see Ana before and after the deaths of her parents and also some twenty years afterwards, as a grown woman. Are these the recollections of this older woman? Is this her pinboard of images?

She describes her childhood as: "an interminable long and sad time, filled with fear, fear of the unknown. There are things I can't forget." Scenes blur the division between the domestic and the fantastic. In one scene Ana looks up towards the roof of a building where she sees herself preparing to jump. She then heads to the basement where she takes out a tin of what her mother told her was poison. Now her seeming lack of surprise and emotion after her father's death and the strange act of cleaning a glass from his bedside table takes on a sinister turn.

The film is full of wonderful scenes where the camera seems to pan through both time and space as one memory gives birth to another. The woman who was with her father was his best friends wife. We see an earlier tryst between them through Ana's eyes. The maid too, tells of her father's 'wandering eye' and again Ana 'sees' them together, her father putting his hand against the glass while Rosa leans against the other side cleaning. I've introduced the apostrophes because there seems to be some legitimate doubt about what is real and imagined.

The film is also seen as speaking on an allegorical level about Franco's Spain. The house in which most of the film is set is dark and very 'masculine'. The father is the boss and women's role is to serve. The funeral of her father is attended almost exclusively by old soldiers.

Within this, however, the girls show much spirit and a scene where they dance to a favorite 7" is joyous and there is a remarkable scene where they dress up as their parents, and maid, and start to act out scenes from their lives. Is this the start of a creative understanding or are they stuck in the rut carved out for them.

And this is where the frustration arises. Online I watched all eleven available 'sections', but there were 14. And this was on top of the poor quality. I have ordered a copy of this on DVD and look forward to revisiting it when that arrives. I'll post again then....

Find Richards post and links to others HERE.


  1. So wish that you were close enough that I could lend you my copy, Séamus! This film is fantastic--one of my all-time faves--and I can only imagine the agony of being cheated out of a good chunk of it and in poor video quality to boot. That being said, I dig how you drew attention to the movie's concern with the instability of memory and I really really dig that line of yours about the Ana character being "like a ghost at her own party." So true on both accounts. Thanks for watching what you could of the movie--I hope your ordered copy turns out to be worth the wait for you when it arrives!

    1. Richard - despite all the problems I'm glad I watched it and am looking forward to seeing it properly and to the end. I also recently got (when looking for Cria Cuervos) a nice box set of Italian neo-realist films including Umberto D, which you had recommended. I'm looking forward to watching them too.