Monday, April 07, 2008

El Violin

The film club regulars gathered in their usual spots (we're becoming creatures of some habit) at Millbrooker Towers last night for a screening of Francisco Vargas' 2005 drama of the 1970s' Mexican peasants' uprisings "El Violin".

Helpfully, the distributors have translated the title for our American friends who can rent a copy of "The Violin" should they find "El Violin" too much of a linguistic leap.

Filmed in monochrome, this is a simple and bleak tale of the downtrodden trying to fight back against a system and an army against which they have only the most desperate of hopes.

The principal role is taken by Angel Tavira who justly won the best actor award at Cannes for his portrayal of Don Plutarco, a one handed violinist who is trying to both help the rebellion and protect his grandson from harm. He shows a dignified sadness at the whole affair and knows his son will be lost to him; as his son has lost his wife and daughter.
The drama is powerful; the audience being bludgeoned in the opening sequence by a torture and rape scenario played out in a squalid hut in a squalid village. Mercifully, Vargas understands that graphic violence has its place in film making and that that place is as a menacing background, not as a principal feature. After this disturbing opening, the film goes into slow-burn mode as it reveals the desperate straits of the peasant protagonists through intense dialogue and panoramic views of the land from which these people are being obliged to scratch a living whilst an oppressive regime tries to take even that from them.

El Violin is a raw and quite harrowing film with a solid sense of social justice and an underlying anger at the abuse of authority. There is, though, no proselytising and the soldiery is portrayed with a level of humanity that brings even more of a chill to the narrative.

The story is a simple one, the message timeless and the imagery is stark. Powerful stuff which left us in a few minutes of silence as the end credits rolled. We were left in no doubt that the cycle of violence and desperation would start again. Recommended.

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