Roses without thorns open FestCEAL
by Vitor Pinto
Far from the ambitious programme of previous editions, the Spanish and Latin American Film Festival of Brussels (FestCEAL) opened its 15th edition last night with the screening of Emilio Mártinez Lázaro's Spanish/Italian co-production The 13 Roses [+see also:
Onhand to present the film, producer Enrique Cerezo advised the audience to take out their handkerchiefs, as they might need them. After the bisexual adventures of musical comedy The Two Sides of Bed [+see also:
interview: Álvaro Curiel
interview: Emilio Martínez Lázaro
film profile], Lázaro took a darker approach in dealing with the true story of 13 young women executed in the first year of the Franco regime. As the personal story of each of the "13 roses" would extend the script for hours, the 130-minute ensemble piece focuses on only five of them.
Like Manuel Huerga's Salvador [+see also:
film profile], on the last man to be executed by Franco’s dictatorship, The 13 Roses is perhaps one of those necessary films for the collective memory of a country. Unfortunately, in this particular case the tears audiences were expected to shed turned out to be of pity that such a potentially gripping theme was treated in such a conventional way.
The film shows very little artistic vision beyond the usual (and therefore predictable) dramatic moments of violence and beyond the annoyingly expected tragic soundtrack, always ready to be piped in during the most tense moments, as if being tortured and facing the death penalty weren’t already tragic enough.
The beauty and talent of Pilar López de Ayala, Mónica Sánchez and Marta Etura are at the service of a film that is above all a tribute to the victims of the fascist regime, but such a noble purpose is belied by a small gallery of flat and suffering female characters, roses without thorns simultaneously revolted by and content with their roles as martyrs.
There is no room for ambiguity or complexity here as the injustice of the entire world simply falls upon the characters' shoulders. However, the film is quite successful in its recreation of late 1930s Madrid and in the beautiful cinematography by DoP José Luis Alcaine.
Alta Classics released it in Spain on October 19.
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