16 January 1999 | Jim-249
Grim stiff, yes, but engrossing, absorbing, haunting.
I would line up Tristan Bauer's wonderful film with De Sica's "The Bicycle Thief", certain Dickens novels ("Hard Times", "Our Mutual Friend") and Orwell's 'documentaries' ("The Road to Wigan Pier", "Down and Out in Paris and London"), and other moving accounts of poor folk struggling for survival and dignity in a harsh world. Ramon suddenly finds himself jobless and unable to maintain his family. After this metaphorical storm, we watch him and his family descend to the point of despair in a shanty town. Late in the film, there is literally a storm, during which Ramon and his brother struggle to make a coffin for their dead father; they have to remove the doors of their house for the timber they need. Grim stiff, yes, but engrossing, absorbing, haunting. Another unforgettable image (among so many) is that of Ramon suddenly seeing his face on a security video screen; shocked by how gaunt and haggard he has become, he studies the picture, examining every line, as if trying to recognize himself - or to find the self he once knew. After that storm, Ramon returns to his wife, visits his imprisoned son. and the last scenes suggest that the struggle will be maintained, that better days may arrive as suddenly as the bad ones did. Not facile optimism - just a possibility, a hope, enough to keep them all going. Strongly recommended.