Intense and Poetic
“El Mar” is a dark but extremely satisfying movie. Dealing with the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, it is a vengeful look at wartime. It is the tale of three young children who witnessed firing squads and their own friends killing each other.
It is a harsh and cruel look at war. Ramallo (Roger Casamajor) and Manuel (Bruno Bergonzini) are the main characters in this drama and as they are witness to the tense and traumatic development, they succumb to a homosexual relationship. They play their roles with delicateness and sensitivity not usually seen in films of this nature.
I understand that those of us who do not know about the Spanish Civil War have no idea of the atrocities that were committed. The movie is a violent attack on all of the senses. The film is nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece which is brilliantly moved along by intense images of war. When the film opens the characters we see are children who act out what they have seen in the world of adults in which they live. We later meet them as adults when they in a sanatorium trying to deal with what life has wrought upon them. One of them is a recluse who is sexually repressed. Another is a hustler who has become ill and the third is a nun working there to heal the ill. What ensues is an allegorical look at how violence affects the psyche in three different ways.
The climatic scene is astounding but not easy to watch. It is profound and a logical climax to what we have seen on the screen. In the film we have a glimpse of Spanish history which takes us back in time.
It is a rough and stark view as it traces the profound effects of war and thus becomes one of the finest anti-war documents we have—the end result has a far greater impact than the reality of the present.
When the three main characters meet again at the sanitarium they slowly reveal the secrets and the scars of their childhood experiences with war. The sanitarium is the ideal location for them to meet again as it represents a graphic plane where there is a thin line between life and death, between love and lust, and between devotion and destruction. It is here that the impact of the film is the strongest. There is a great deal of graphic sex and male frontal nudity and the viewer should prepare himself to see every time of brutality known to man. These scenes are not gratuitous—they are absolutely necessary and the director Agusti Villaronga is to be congratulated for having the wherewithal to make this astounding film. This is a hard film but a necessary one for those of who do not know about the terrors that war can bring about.
Religion, sickness, love, violence and sexuality are present throughout the film and what is created is a tension filled and intense cinema experience. It is a sad movie in which people get hurt and bleed and sometimes a movie, in order to work, must make the viewer uncomfortable. I found “El Mar” to be poetic in its retelling of the sadness and horrors of war and haunting with its violence. It is over the top and restrained at the same time. It is charged as well as understated and the finale is a fest for the eyes. It is probably one of the finest films I have seen so far. It left me speechless as it wove an intense web that forced me never to take my eyes off of the screen as it swept through the history of the characters. There is nothing about the film that I did not love and I feel that those that see it will feel exactly the same.