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GIJÓN 2019

Review: Les Perseides

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- The first full-length feature from directing duo Alberto Dexeus and Ànnia Gabarró dredges up some old ghosts through the wild imagination and unclouded gaze of a young girl

Review: Les Perseides
Nora Sala-Patau in Les Perseides

Following its world premiere at BAFICI earlier this year and a further outing at Cinespaña in Toulouse, The Perseides, the feature-length debut from Alberto Dexeus and Ànnia Gabarró, has been selected to compete in the Official Section at the 57th FICX (Gijón International Film Festival). It’s quite an achievement for what started as a student film at Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra University — but then again, so did Les amigues de L’Ágata [+see also:
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and Ojos Negros [+see also:
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interview: Marta Lallana, Ivet Castelo
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. The Perseides is not dissimilar from the latter as far as the premise is concerned, with the same focus on adolescence and broken families and another summer pilgrimage to the ancestral home.

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However, in most other respects, the two films couldn’t be more different. Once we’re up to speed with the situation surrounding 12-year-old Mar (played by Nora Sala-Patau), The Perseides takes a left turn into fantasy territory to evoke a profound sense of alienation, mystery and the disinterment of a nation’s political past. To get there, we first need to push past what is potentially the greatest obstacle to the necessary suspension of disbelief: the idea that such a young girl would have much interest in a pile of old photos and recordings languishing in her grandparents’ house. They speak of a dark, difficult and painful past, and Mar can’t stop listening — today’s youngsters, surely, are far too busy swooning over the dulcet tones of the latest X-Factor idol to get excited about this.

Dexeus and Gabarró have opted for an intimate, minimalist approach to political filmmaking, focusing on Mar’s journey as she lives through this pivotal summer. There’s a distinct feel of Pan’s Labyrinth [+see also:
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(produced in Spain and directed by Mexico’s Guillermo del Toro) about this film, and undertones of the strained atmosphere we find in Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel’s work, but without the same murkiness. The Perseides is a lighter, brighter film, unobtrusively produced and shot with a dreamy stillness that basks in the calm of a perfect summer’s day. In this respect, it has more in common with Victor Erice’s wonderful The Spirit of the Beehive, where we also find children playing in the ruins of a bygone age, discovering new physical and emotional realms and disturbing the spirits of the dead, drawing us into the enchantment of a ghost story.

In essence, this debut film takes us on an edifying journey from innocence, obliviousness, ignorance and daring to the shadowlands of a history to which we’ve become numb, despite the open wounds so brilliantly exposed by Mar’s question to her father, as he takes apart his childhood home: “Grandpa was a bad person ... doesn’t that bother you?”

The Perseides, which you can also catch this winter at the Márgenes festival (click here to find out more), was produced by Boogaloo Films, also handling distribution. Supported by Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra University and Televisió de Catalunya (TV3), it was a winner in the OpenECAM Work-in-Progress section of the Gijón International Film Festival in 2018 and in the Primer Test section of REC Tarragona in 2017.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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