By Brian Lafferty
March 2, 2011 (San Diego) – If there is one thing I’ve learned in the last year it’s that you never know where life will take you. Faithful readers may have noticed in my reviews references to my time at Cal State, Fullerton. I took a variety of classes in criticism, writing, and production. In two of my courses, I produced several sixteen-millimeter shorts.
My plan after graduation was to be a screenwriter and sometime director. Since then, however, I discovered that I enjoy writing about films more than I do writing films.
That doesn’t mean film school was a waste of time. My experience in writing scripts and producing short films has given me a deep understanding of the art and craft of movie making.
Even the Rain, Spain’s submission to the Academy for Best Foreign Language Film, has a solid grasp of the harried nature of filmmaking. I could easily identify with the characters, particularly the director (Gael García Bernal of The Motorcycle Diaries) and the producer (Luis Tosar). As someone schooled in film production, I found it exciting to see the film-within-the-film come together.
The movie is more than just a story about filmmaking. Director Sebastian (Bernal) helms a movie about the real and unflattering tale of Christopher Columbus’ conquest in Bolivia. The lead actor in the film-within-the-film, Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri), leads a rebellion against a foreign company’s water supply privatization. Daniel’s character is Hatuey, who led a failed uprising against Columbus.
Making a movie, even a short one, can be a grueling process. It’s not as simple as pointing the camera and telling actors what to do. Composing every shot is a meticulous process, not to mention making sure everything is in focus lest the film stock be wasted. Then there are times when you have to deviate from the script for reasons out of your control.
Unglamorous? Maybe, but in the end it was always gratifying.
Even the Rain exhibits that spirit. Sebastian has a vision. He wants everything, including every line of dialogue, to be exactly faithful to historical reality. The movie effectively shows how this attention to detail can create a burden on the cast and crew.
In one scene, he wants the actresses to “drown” their babies because that’s exactly what their characters did. They refuse on moral grounds. A few times, we see the actors having a hard time memorizing their lines exactly as written. As a result of these little things, the filmmaking process isn’t superficial. Nothing about the filmmaking process feels glossed over.
Despite his character’s demands for historical accuracy, Bernal approaches his role in an unexpected way. People might think that Sebastian is a dictatorial film director, based on my description. Instead, he is professional, thoughtful and reasonable. He is kind to his actors and crew. Even under the direst and most exasperating of circumstances he is calm, cool and collected.
From the production angle, I was struck by the quality of the film-within-the-film, scenes of which are incorporated in the narrative. Showing the imperialism and persecution of the Indians, these scenes contain the same raw power as the real world. They look like an actual professionally made movie. The greatest effect is how it blurs the distinction between the real world and the film’s world. This gives the production credibility and enhances the parallels between both worlds.
The allegories aren’t subtle. The movie isn’t content to simply show the parallels. It makes a statement, however blatantly, about the consequences of forcing something on a civilization. The film-within-the-film isn’t a gimmick. By showing us the Indian’s failed uprising, it makes Daniel and his people’s victory against the imperialistic foreign water company all the more satiating.
Even the Rain is currently playing at the Landmark Hillcrest.
A Vitagraph Films release. Directed by Icíar Bollaín. Produced by Pilar Benito and Juan Gordon. Written by Paul Laverty. Cinematography by Alex Catalán. Music by Alberto Iglesias. With Gael García Bernal, Luis Tosar, Karra Elejalde, Raúl Arévalo, and Juan Carlos Aduviri. Unrated. In Spanish and Quechua with English subtitles.