The new western is in the Spanish countryside

More than 80% of the Spanish population lives in cities. This group includes the vast majority of those who dedicate themselves to the cinema. But, for once, the movies have not talked about that urban population, which is already reflected in almost all the series, but about the remaining percentage. It happens that during the year that has just ended, almost unanimously considered as the annus mirabilis of Spanish cinemaat least three films were released (As bestas, Alcarràs Y suro) that have been described by critics as westerns, another contains a geographical and emotional journey that goes from the Madrid neighborhood of Malasaña to the Basque town of Mundaka (five little wolves) and one more is close to folklore and also to the rudeness of Vega Baja, around Orihuela (Water).

Among all these very different films, which not only have in common the serendipity of having been released the same year —there are also generational coordinates: almost all of their directors and screenwriters are born in the eighties—, one finds thematic rhymes, repeated obsessions. There is the question of uprooting, the mismatch between parents and children, the sometimes parodiable idealism of the neo-rural who settles in a village that does not belong to them, the difficult fit of renewable energies and their effects on the landscape and the conflict that, today, supposes Live in the countryside and in the countryside. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Spanish cinema, which has found applauded stories far from the cities, the Trip to Hurdes a Sunrise, which is no small thing passing by Tasio Y The spirit of the hiveis bearing some of its best fruits by telling the rural in a far from idealized way.

“We share a similar vital moment with all these filmmakers, around the age of 35, in which we question our future and where and how we want to live it”, believes Arnau Vilaró, co-writer of alcarràs with Carla Simon. “This vital moment coincides with a global moment of climate crisis, of changes in the ways of eating, of considering whether it is necessary to live in the city… I have no answer as to why so many rural stories crystallized last year and I think it is something that It has been going on for some time — Galician filmmakers are a good example — but it is understandable that these tensions have come to light. Furthermore, several of these films are debut films and it is natural that they arise from a very intimate place, connected to your identity and your place of origin”.

Although Vilaró’s experience in the cinema had been more linked to teaching and research, Simón wanted to count on him to write the history of the Solé family in the last pick from their peach fields, partly because Vilaró is from Bellvís, a town very close to Alcarràs, and his father and grandparents are farmers. Like the children in the film, Vilaró spent his summers setting up cabins among the trees “and destroying an orchard” and already as a teenager alternated rehearsals for the Scale in Hi-Fi, like Mariona in the film, with the handling of the tractor, like Roger, the boy in the film who is interested in organic farming, and who is very inspired by his own brother, who in his day also dropped by the Florida 135 nightclub of Fraga. The central couple, Dolors and Quimet, is based on Carla Simón’s uncles and Vilaró’s parents. So the writer didn’t come to that territory as an outsider. “Despite the fact that I have been living abroad for years, I knew the place, the trade, the customs, the way of speaking and communicating well,” he explains.

A still from ‘Alcarràs’.

The people of Lleida often refer to their land as the Far West of Catalonia and Vilaró agrees that several critics have read his film as a western. “Iconography interested us and we handled references such as John Ford, Howard Hawks or Elia Kazan: the entrance of the grandfather in the bar for retirees had something of the twilight imagery of the cowboy and the character of Pinyol [el villano] we wanted to give you that reference. We even wanted a house with a porch, but the art director preferred it without. However, I see the development of the classic Western film more present in as beasts either suro”, says the screenwriter. These two films, which were released just two weeks apart, could put off any urban couple thinking of moving to the country. Both have in the center a marriage that settles with a certain idealism in a territory that is alien to themsometimes with more theories than the desire to understand the environment.

“I was interested in throwing this urban couple into the forest environment because it put them in contact with the elements and the way they do it is by wanting to shape them,” explains Mikel Gurrea, director and screenwriter of suro. “Also, as soon as I arrived, Iván and Helena [Vicky Luengo y Pol López, que interpretan a dos arquitectos que han heredado una masía del Empordà] They begin to approach things in different ways and this has an impact on their conflict as a couple. The rural environment helped me to move the characters from ideas to practice. But it is clear that it is a very fruitful field”.

Vicky Luengo and Pol López, in a still from ‘Suro’.

His film began to take shape more than 10 years ago when, just after finishing his degree, Gurrea agreed to work as a laborer stripping cork from trees on land that belonged to his partner at the time. “I came from the owners, but I was not; I speak Catalan, but I’m not; I was a seasonal worker, but it was going to be just one summer, and for all of them it was a job”. if in alcarràs All the characters except one, that of the sister who lives in Barcelona, ​​played by Berta Pipó, Carla Simón’s sister, are played by natural actorsthat is, by people from the area who had not dedicated themselves to interpretation beforein suro the same thing happens with the secondary characters, the cork collectors. Iván, the architect turned rural owner consort, insists on participating in the peeling of the cork and ends up protecting one of the North African seasonal workers who is barely a teenager. Both there and in alcarràs It is clear that the farm trades are sustained only thanks to migrants who practice them, sometimes accepting terrible conditions. As for the locals, between Quimet and Roger de alcarràswho resist seeing the land they have worked converted into pastures for solar panels, and the Anta de as beastswho are eager to take the money from the wind energy companies, leave the village forever and buy a taxi in Ourense, and do not understand that a French couple stands between them and their only chance, there is a certain range of attitudes towards a territory that is loved and hated in unequal percentages.

There have been those who have seen an excessive idealization, for example in the relationship of the Solé family with the seasonal workers. Or quite the opposite. already when as beasts premiered in Cannes there were Galician journalists, such as José Luis Losa, from The voice of Galicia, who pointed out that the portrait of the rural is too sullen and unidirectional. A territory so fertile in stories is not always easy to work, but for once it seems that the feeling is that the harvest turned out very well.

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The new western is in the Spanish countryside

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