Underdeveloped characters primarily fault in El Sur
Directed by Victor Erice.
Starring Omero Antonutti
and Sonsoles Aranguren.
In Spanish with English subtitles.
March 2 at the Museum of Fine Arts.
By RICARDO RODRIGUEZ
EL SUR, WHICH MEANS "the south" in Spanish, is director Victor Erice's second film. His first movie, The Spirit of the Beehive, won the Silver Hugo at the Chicago Film Festival. Beehive, like El Sur, is told from a child's perspective.
El Sur is a simple film, rich in interesting childhood observations and perspectives. It is marred, however, by underdeveloped characters and the lack of a sense of closure.
The film is set in late 1950s Spain and revolves around the relationship of 8-year-old Estrella and her mysterious father, Agustin. The father and daughter were once close, but their relationship begins to break down as the film progresses.
In the second part of the movie, Estrella (now 15) and her father no longer enjoy the intimacy they once shared. Agustin has turned to drinking; his further mental decomposition and Estrella's subsequent visit to the South comprises the remainder of the film.
The character Estrella (Sonsoles Aranguren) is well developed and thoughtful. Estrella's actions and emotions are full of meaning and insight and not too na"ive. The film successfully explores a unique father-daughter relationship and the accepting nature of children.
Agustin (Omero Antonutti), however, is not fully developed as a character, despite his central role in the movie. Although the father character is meant to be mysterious, the reasoning behind many of his actions often needs more explanation. For example, his feelings for a past lover are never fully explained, leaving the viewers with an awful sense of being shut out. This and other underdeveloped aspects of the film ultimately affect the film's ending, which is unfulfilling, predictable, and not at all tragic.
On the whole, El Sur misses, primarily due to its poor character development. However, its childhood insights are genuine and heartwarming. A knowledge of Spanish might serve as added incentive to see the film.