LA PROMESA: The Spanish Way with Gothic Thrillers
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 06/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some of the most intellectually terrifying films, stories that are imbued with religious symbolism, mysticism, and surrealism, are products of Spanish filmmakers and LA PROMESA is no exception. Writer/Director Héctor Carré finds just the right amount of credibility in the prelude to his psychological thriller to make the following strange events teeter on that thin line of delusion and reality.
Gregoria (the redoubtable Carmen Maura) is a fragile woman, married to an abusive, unfaithful husband Roberto (Juan Francisco Margallo) and is confined to her house by order of her husband who taunts her for being barren. She is fanatically religious, obsessive compulsive, and walking closely to the abyss of insanity. Strange visions and incidents happen: in one instance she witness the fall of a housepainter who despite a fracture of the skull tells Gregoria of his perfect little hometown in Galicia, a story that opens Gregoria's hopes for a better life. How she manages to depart her miserable life for Galicia involves an incident with her husband that for the sake of the viewers needs to remain occult.
In Galicia she changes her name to Celia, saves a small boy Daniel (Santiago Barón) from an accident, and because of her courageous act observed by the boy's mother Dorita (Ana Fernández) she is invited to the palatial estate where she ultimately gains employment as a maid and nanny - with some reservations from the boy's father Leandro (Evaristo Calvo) who sees Celia's dark side. Celia and Daniel become devoted to each other and Daniel introduces Celia to the strange 'hauntings' of the house and community and reveals the strained relationship of his parents. Also in the mansion Celia meets the cook Felisa (Luisa Merelas) and gardener Senén (Julio Lago) who watch Celia with suspicion.
Daniel leads Celia to a mysterious church where Celia explains the saints, prays, and witnesses bizarre happenings. Always returning to this gothic church for solace Celia begins observing problems in her new 'home' and gradually her love for Daniel makes her mind bend around ridding the child of his parents, thus making Daniel her own child. Finally her sanity breaks and she is involved in murderous acts that are not what they appear to be. To say more would disrupt the story of how a deranged mind mixes delusions and actions to gain resolution to defaced dreams.
As Gregoria/Celia, Carmen Maura again demonstrates the brilliance of her acting career. She makes us love this deranged, pitiful character while maintaining an atmosphere of madness and threat. The entire cast weaves in and out of this maze of reality/delusion and Director Carré manages to keep us confused about what we are watching in an extraordinary stance of the how the dysfunctional mind works. The settings are lovely, and the old church is terrifyingly beautiful with all lighting coming form tall tapers and votives and otherworldly light as captured by cinematographer Juan Carlos Gómez. The musical score by Suso Rey and Manuel Varela enhances the mood of the piece with compositions that could easily stand alone. This is not an easy film to watch, not because of violence (though there is some), but because Carré never lets us know the exact truth of what we are watching: is this all in Celia's broken mind, is it real, is the story really happening, etc? Highly recommended for lovers of Gothic tales. Grady Harp, June 05
A Psychological Thriller without Thrills
R. Crane | Washington, DC United States | 07/25/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"A Spanish "thriller" that lacks thrills but is a well played story. The film itself is visually compellling, the acting above mediocre, but the plot rather thin.
No Alfred Hitchcock, and certainly not memorable, this film, La Promesa is an okay way to spend 2 forgettable hours."