raise ravens


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.


stills from carlos saura's 1976 cria cuervos

spirit, shadow

"Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you. " 

-Carlos Ruiz Zafón (The Shadow of the Wind)


i recently read "the shadow of the wind" which is a beautiful novel originally written in spanish and takes place in 1950's barcelona. the story is set against the backdrop of fading youth in franco's spain. it is about falling in and out of both books and love, and the strange relationship between the two.

shortly after reading "the shadow of the wind" i came across a movie called "the spirit of the beehive," which similarly happens to be set in the period following the spanish civil war but ten years earlier, in 1940. the film revolves around the coming of age of young ana who becomes enamored with the figure of frankenstein after the film travels to her small town. the film is a very sweet, melancholy look at the way in which a young girl tries to understand the world around her. it is also beautifully realized and has a sort of dreamy, moody quality.

what i particularly enjoyed about both "the shadow of the wind" and "the spirit of the beehive" is that they are small intimate portraits of children struggling to make sense of growing up. and they are set in a  period where a large epic struggle happens to be playing out in the background. while the war does not necessarily affect their everyday lives, it casts a long shadow that nonetheless shapes them in ways they do not quite understand. both stories come across as incredibly sensitive and capture the simultaneous feelings of love and loss.



photos by me, film stills from the spirit of the beehive rent it here in nz