8 February 2014 | EdgarST
Best Mexican Film of 1945
(Contains mild spoiler) Not a very successful adaptation of a novel by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (the man who wrote "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse", "Blood and Sand" and "Beyond All Limits") Roberto Gavaldón's "La barraca" nevertheless won all the top Ariels (Mexican national film prize) awarded to 1945 production, including best film, direction, screenplay, cinematography, actor, supporting actor, film editor, music, art direction and sound. The production is lavish, and the intentions were good, with a lot invested in special effects and casting many Spanish actors who were refugees from the Civil War, to make Mexican locales pass for Sevilla, but the results were not up to the effort, due to a weak script by filmmaker Tito Davison (a frequent collaborator of Gavaldón) and the daughter of Blasco Ibánez. The first hour or so is dedicated to illustrate all the hardships of a foreign family that arrives in town and occupies an abandoned "barraca" (a cabin) to work the land nearby, property of the family responsible for the tragedy of the first occupants. The community considers the cabin and land to be haunted, but everybody is so mean (except for an old shepherd) that it seems it is the people who are really possessed by evil spirits for all they wrong they do to the family members, including the death of the youngest child. The script is a perfect example of what a screenwriter should not do: it accumulates tragedy after tragedy, and then spends around 30 minutes of apparently happy times with folk music, dances and serenades, to return to tragedy for the last 15 minutes. It reminded me a bit of Thomas Vinterberg's "The Hunt", although "La barraca" was made 67 years before, and its characters are more rebellious and confront the mean characters. Not bad, but director Gavaldón made other much better films.