Thursday 19 February 2015

Elisa, Vida Mía (Elisa, My Love) [1977]

Saura’s first film following Franco’s death and Spain’s painful emergence from the iron grip of fascism, this was the concluding chapter of what I have decided to refer to as ‘Trilogy of Memories’, considering the dominating thematic and narrative devices in the 3 films. In Cria Cuervos nearly the entire duration was based in flashbacks, while in Cousin Angelica it alternately transitioned between actual and memory; Elisa, Vida Mia, the least political and most introspective of the trio, was shrouded by ramifications of the past even if it was largely set in the present. Marital and father-daughter relationships formed the key thematic elements in this deeply personal meditation on regrets, loneliness, mortality, infidelity and the elusive pursuit for reconciliation with one’s past and present. Luis (Fernando Rey), an ageing writer and school teacher, lives in complete isolation at a secluded farmhouse in Castille. While recuperating from a surgery, he receives a reluctant visit after 20 long years from his estranged daughter Elisa (Geraldine Chaplin), which starts the slow rekindling of the bond between the seemingly gregarious but essentially pensive father, and the emotionally vulnerable daughter struggling between suppressed memories of her parents (Chaplin also played the mother while Ana Torrent, in a very brief appearance, played the younger Elisa) and her failing marriage to Antonio (Norman Briski) who might have cheated on her with her best friend. The meta-narrative, which seamlessly veered between reality, dreams and fantasy, and oftentimes blurred the line between Elisa’s ‘real’ life and the chronicling of it in Luis’ novel, was imbued with a downbeat and existential tone, and was aided by the moody photography, highly evocative score, and a towering central performance by Rey.

Director: Carlos Saura
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Family Drama
Language: Spanish
Country: Spain

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