This 1976 allegory of the last dying days of general francisco franco's dictatorial grip on spain and the coming of age family melodrama unfolding quietly in the background, was surely an early work in what has now become a strong tradition of period films about franco spain.
Ana and her three sisters spend a summer sequestered in their family home, an estate tucked right into the center of sprawling madrid. In the wake of their philandering father's death, they continue to come to terms with the earlier loss of their mother, as their lives are increasingly thrown into transition.
like the decaying mansion they live in, surrounded by the bustling modernity of the city, the girls are encased in an in-between world of youth and adulthood, naivete and corruption. the weight of death surrounds them. not only through the absence of their parents, and their old mute, invalid grandmother, but also more broadly in spanish society with the impending death of franco. as they try to make sense of their own little world, the implication is that so too does the entire country, as broader notions of revolution, democracy and freedom are alluded to.
i found this film particularly unusual in that it directly confronts the darkness and sadness of childhood. it suggests that while whimsy and wonder are often seen as the landmarks of youth, they are balanced in a very real way by a pain that never quite leaves children. i think there is a great truth to this, and it makes for a very beautiful and meditative film.