Amazing Cinematography! Beautiful Made
J. Robertsson | Sweden | 01/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Don't pay to much attention to other reviews. If you like cinema, If you like to see artistic movies, beyond the superficial, If you estimate a good cinematography or just enjoy watching a concert of good takes and pictures, Then BUY this film! You won't regret it
It's maybe not 5 stars, the script and story are a little bit week, I admit, but not less than 4 stars, It's impossible to not be touch by the beauty and the imagery of this movie."
Good Acting, Good Locales, Disconnected script
Get What We Give | Georgia | 11/21/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"El Mar is a Spanish film about the toll the Spanish Civil War has on a group of young children who witness a mass murder and subsequently witness and/or participate in the murder of another child.
El Mar (The Sea) tells the story of three children: two boys (Andreu and Manuel)and a girl (Francisca). They grow up in a remote village where corruption from the Civil War still reaches them. The father of one of their friends is a corrupt official who murders those who would oppose him or fight in the resistance to the government. Their father of their friend, Paul, has been murdered by this man, so they determine to torture their friend as payback (and as only the mind of children can work) by forcing the boy to drink castor oil. However, things go wrong when the boy - Julia - taunts them and tells them that he just might have his father kill their fathers or them. Paul becomes enraged and eventually kills Julia - a feat that all the other children witness.
Paul cannot live with his guilt - so at the tender age of 10 - he commits suicide.
Flash forward ten years... The remaining children (Andreu, Manuel, and Francisa) all end up in the same location at the same time - a Tuberculosis Clinic set way in the countryside. Manuel has been there for some time as a patient, while Fancisca has been there for a while - but she is there as a nun/nurse. Andreu shows up as a patient shortly thereafter.
The rest of the story follows Andreu as he attempts to connect with his old friends AND disassociate himself from the crime lord for whom he has been not only a mule for stolen goods, but also a forced lover.
The attempts to show us the breadth of the corruption his crime lord has and how it is all but impossible for him to escape it. But it also takes us down an odd path, where we learn that Manuel has been in love with Andreu since they were children and Manuel has turned to religion to fight these sexual urges - and has maintained his virginity in the process.
Andreu is the driving force of the story, but the script lacks a cohesiveness to make us believe that this story is anything more than a character study. Is this about the effects of the war on these adult children? Is this a crime story? Is this a story about redemption lost and found? It doesn't effectively demonstrate a clear thread of synergy to provide us with a clear cut answer.
The acting is quite good and the settings sufficiently oppressive and realistic. This and another Spanish Civil War based film - The Devil's Backbone - give us glimpses into a child's mind with regard to the war and its effects - but they don't really tell the story in such a way as there is a complete resolution that satisfies.
El Mar more sufficiently resolves its storyline, but it isn't satisfying, because it doesn't make the connection between the children's past and their ultimate fate at the movie's end.
Gregg Araki deals with the emotional toll on children as they become adults much more effectively in Mysterious Skin. Although these two films have subject matter far different, the emotional framework is not that far apart.
In the clinic, Manuel has a pet cat that he dotes on. In a fit of anger Andreu kicks the cat almost to death (this is a particularly cruel scene and one I did NOT like in the least). Manuel sees this take place and does nothing - he says nothing - and he sheds not a tear. It doesn't fit with this emotionally fragile man, who constantly reads the Bible). It further doesn't fit that he would give the dying animal back to Andreu to put out of its misery, nor once Andreu does, that Manuel, upon burying the animal, is quite lighthearted.
Villaronga would have done well to show us a more consistent emotional thread for these children. Maybe it's an American's emotional expectations being cast on a film that reflects only a Spanish emotional demonstration...I doubt this though, since my best friend is Spanish and is sufficiently emotional in all areas. No, I think this is just a glossed over area of the script of a film that should have been far more emotionally engaging.
The Indelible, Lingering Aftermath of War on the Human Psych
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"EL MAR is a tough, stark, utterly brilliant, brave work of cinematic art. Director Agustí Villaronga, with an adaptation by Antoni Aloy and Biel Mesquida of Blai Bonet's novel, has created a film that traces the profound effects of war on the minds of children and how that exposure wrecks havoc on adult lives. And though the focus is on war's heinous tattoo on children, the transference to like effects on soldiers and citizens of adult age is clear. This film becomes one of the finest anti-war documents without resorting to pamphleteering: the end result has far greater impact because of its inherent story following children's march toward adulthood.
A small group of children are shown in the Spanish Civil War of Spain, threatened with blackouts and invasive nighttime slaughtering of citizens. Ramala (Nilo Mur), Tur (David Lozano), Julia (Sergi Moreno), and Francisca (Victoria Verger) witness the terror of the assassination of men, and the revenge that drives one of them to murder and suicide. These wide-eyed children become adults, carrying all of the psychic disease and trauma repressed in their minds.
We then encounter the three who survive into adulthood where they are all confined to a tuberculosis sanitarium. Ramala (Roger Casamajor) has survived as a male prostitute, protected by his 'john' Morell (Juli Mira), and has kept his life style private. Tur (Bruno Bergonzini) has become a frail sexually repressed gay male whose cover is his commitment to Catholicism and the blur of delusional self-mutilation/crucifixion. Francisca (Antònia Torrens) has become a nun and serves the patients in the sanitarium. The three are re-joined by their environment in the sanitarium and slowly each reveals the scars of their childhood experiences with war. Tur longs for Ramala's love, Ramala longs to be free from his Morell, and Francisca must face her own internal needs covered by her white nun's habit.
The setting of the sanitarium provides a graphic plane where the thin thread between life and death, between lust and love, and between devotion and destruction is played out. To detail more would destroy the impact of the film on the individual viewer, but suffice it to say that graphic sex and full nudity are involved (in some of the most stunningly raw footage yet captured on film) and the viewer should be prepared to witness every form of brutality imaginable. For this viewer these scenes are of utmost importance and Director Villaronga is to be applauded for his perseverance and bravery in making this story so intense. The actors, both as children and as adults, are splendid: Roger Cassamoor, Bruno Bergonzini and Antònia Torrens are especially fine in inordinately difficult roles. The cinematography by Jaime Peracaula and the haunting musical score by Javier Navarrete serve the director's vision. A tough film, this, but one highly recommended to those who are unafraid to face the horrors of war and its aftermath. In Spanish with English subtitles. Grady Harp, July 05
James Morris | Jackson Heights, NY United States | 10/02/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I had heard nothing but good things about this film, and when it showed up in the "gay" section of my local video store, I purchased it, fully expecting a superior viewing experience. I'm afraid I was terribly disappointed.
I like art films and foreign films as much as the next person - about 20% of my large video collection (1,800 DVDs and growing) could be labeled as such. But I just couldn't get past the movie's major shortcomings.
To begin with, the plot was not only rather thin, it was terribly confusing. The entire opening sequence had me scratching my head wondering why certain people were being killed, and how such small children (no matter how jaded or exposed to the harshness of war) could possibly be so cruel and violent. And the premise that all three principal characters meet later at a TB sanitarium was a little far fetched. Yes, I understood that the story was intended to show how children who witness life's cruelties can grow up to become truly warped human beings, but the motivations and actions of the main characters were not really explained at all. The main character, Romallo, was so cruel, violent and unpredictable that I found it impossible to have any sympathy for him, and the character of Tur was just plain strange. The title ("The Sea") seems to refer to one short (and rather pointless, when you get down to it) speech by Romallo, and it never really came up again.
But my biggest objection was one I have voiced before - and that is the marketing of this DVD. It is being aggressively marketed to a gay audience, even though the plot and characters have nothing overtly gay about them. Once again, the distributors are attempting to lure gay male viewers with a sexually provocative photo on the box, and the promise of "male nudity" and a "graphic gay rape scene". They act as if gay viewers couldn't possibly be interested in a film UNLESS it has a naked hunk or two and some sort of graphic gay sex. I, for one, find this presumption insulting. I buy documentaries to be informed, comedies to laugh, and dramas to be challenged, entertained and intellectually stimulated. When I want porno, I'll buy porno, and the presence of a pretty face / body in a movie will not get my attention for that fact alone.
And, unlike some reviewers at other sites, I did not think this film was a step up from the director's previous film, In A Glass Cage, which, although far more twisted and bizarre than El Mar, had an element of creepy suspense that at least kept my interest. The plot of El Mar was actually rather boring, and the fact that the characters actions made little sense did not help.
I will say that El Mar is beautifully filmed, and the acting is really very good. But that just wasn't enough to save it for me.