29 October 2006 | adamgp
This film is under-appreciated
I would like to challenge the rating of 5.9 for this movie. After the first viewing, I would agree that it deserves a 5.9. Yet seeing it twice and even a third time, the viewer begins to absorb the central theme of the Individual vs. the Collective that runs through the film.
First off, this is not a true Spanish film. It is a "Basque" film. It deals with the problems of identity formation for a Basque individual trapped by his "suffocating pueblo" which imposes on him (Mikel) a masculinity that masks who he truly is. Only by leaving the pueblo and going to Bilbao, does he ultimately discover who he truly is.
Uribe plays with this irony in Bilbao in the scene where Fama, the transvestite, performs a parody of Basque culture. Yet in this "cinema within the cinema," Mikel finds himself, and he transcends the borders of a rigid Basque identity.
This is also a film about ETA, the Basque separatist/terrorist group. It questions whether one can be both an individual at the same time as part of the collective, ultimately revealing that ETA suffocates the individual and is, for this reason, an extension of the paradox of Basque society in the post-Franco years, where ETA has come to lose the "Other" - the Francosist State against which it had formed its collective ideal.
To truly understand this film, which is the third part of a "Trilogy" called the "Basque trilogy," one must understand the state of Basque film at this time, which was still searching for its own identity in the "zine-clubs" of Bilbao.
Also, the film is rewarding for broaching the issue of "What is a Documentary." Uribe shoots many "documentary-like" moments, such as the black and white scene where Mikel recounts his past aid to the ETA militants. These moments are surreal - they bring us above the activity and into the deeply individual feelings of a man frustrated that his collective group does not experience these documentary moments, but is only a passive viewer.
In terms of modern cinematography, the film falls short. Yet its underlying message remains strong.