Film review: Cría Cuervos

15 Jun

Cría Cuervos, (Raise Ravens) has been re-released as part of the BFI Southbank season of post-Franco Spanish cinema.

Director Carlos Saura’s 1976 film is incredibly timely as there has been little else since White Ribbon which can match it for its mysterious, cinematic charm. The movie focuses on a dysfunctional, strict and secretive family (with many skeletons in the closet which are not spoken about) that in many ways chimes perfectly with a Spain emerging from dictatorship.  Eight-year-old Ana Torrent plays Ana, whose father is a senior Spanish Fascist army officer and who she blames for the premature death of her mother.

The film begins with Ana witnessing her dad expiring from a heart attack while having an affair with the wife of his best friend. His own wife, Ana’s mother, has already died after a long illness and years of mistreatment perhaps reflecting another part of Franco society.  Ana, who lives with her two sisters, authoritarian Aunt, Grandmother and housemaid Rosa, after the death of her father, however, is preoccupied with memories of her late mother who appears to Ana in supernatural scenes. In a strange yet fascinating angle to the film the young Ana who in part narrates the film as an adult is played by the same actress who appears as her mother, perhaps reflecting the continued pain that not only her family went through but also Spain in a post-Franco era trying to break free from its past.

In a review for the Guardian which neatly sums up the film, Peter Bradshaw writes:

In one sense, the child stands for the whole of Spain’s younger generation, brutalised by the Franco regime, tensely and miserably waiting for it to die out, but wanting to have killed it.

An interesting and compelling cinematic experience not matched for a number of years. The film is a must see either on re-release or DVD.

Cría Cuervos is showing at Glasgow Film Theatre in August.

– by Andrew Brady

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