Sunday, June 13, 2010
All this month, the India Habitat Centre is screening award-winning movies from the European Union. The festival kicked off with Spain's La Soledad, a.k.a. Solitary Fragments. (Speaking of kicked off, the reason I wasn't glued to the FIFA World Cup and chose to be in the Stein Auditorium instead is that I never was a Football fan. At least not since 1994, when the Brazil vs. Italy finals interfered with my right to enter my classroom and I found it offensive that a young Mr. Lohia ask me to choose my team before I can step in. Especially since he didn't belong to my class at all. What nerve!)
The movie, directed by Jaime Rosales, is about how life for Adela (played by Sonia Almarcha), a single mom trying to raise her infant son, and Antonia (played by Petra Martinez), a widow with three daughters, are forever altered by the terrorist bombing in Madrid. I think it made it to Cannes. And both the film and its director also won the Goya (Spanish national film awards).
Rosales is known for films that show fragments of life and still shots. And I think that's what I liked about this one, too. It didn't force me to come up with an opinion. I could just sit and be with the characters. For me, the movie was like swatches of silence and characters that swam in and out of reality. Almost every other person in the movie had a pair of faded jeans. Of Antonia's daughters, the one that I wish I knew in real life was Ines, especially in the shot where she shrugs her shoulder, raises her eyebrows and matter-of-factly goes back to ironing something on a pale blue ironing board, scratching her head.
That reminds me, there is a lot of ironing in the movie. Ines irons. Adela irons. While Ines is more demanding and straightforward in her need for comfort, Adela chooses to be polite and withdrawn. I don't know if it's about being a control freak who's trying to smoothen the creases in her life or using the warmth to bring some order into lives touched by terror.
And this is where Rosales scores yet again with his use of profile shots. Two people sitting face-to-face and talking are seen through two different lenses. And the screen splits them up into a profile and a full frontal. Much like a coffee talk, or a visit to the therapist.
Speaking of characters, along with the humans, one of the main characters in the movie is the palette of colours. A lot of the sets have dollops of white and sky blue. You often hear conversations where two people are perhaps in two different rooms across a corridor and yet the camera never budges from those white walls in between. The kitchen has a white refrigerator, white cabinets and white casseroles that get replaced only by ones as red as an apple. Antonia is seen rustling huge white sheets and Adela typically seeks comfort in a bathroom with pale white walls with a solitary crack inching up inconspicuously. And later, in a dressing gown, sky blue again (the screenshot above). White empty chairs are all around Adela as she returns to a restaurant she had once been to, with her son. Makes me wonder, is white so alone because it's transparent?