El Mar

Ladymol's Review

Can you just wait a moment whilst I go somewhere and slit my wrists. This film is unremitting, remorseless agony of the body and spirit.

Set in a Spanish Sanatorium, two boys who were involved in the death and suicide of two young friends meet again as young men and patients with TB. The TB metaphor is good, I suppose, if you like the idea of haemorrhaging blood symbolising martyrdom. Or something.

One boy is obsessed with his faith.† The other is a hustler and thief. Both are psychologically damaged. One lusts after the other and it all comes to a cataclysmic end with rape and more blood. Thereís quite a bit of full-frontal male nudity, but all of that sort of exceptionally unattractive bushy limpness that foreign films seem to specialise in. Homosexuality is either portrayed as a degradation and abusive, or a mortal sin for which you need to be punished.

So, this film is not for me despite wonderful cinematography and awe-inspiring acting from all the characters. Itís just too relentless. If I wanted to be punished like this Iíd take a vow of something or other.

Oh, and if you like cats? I suggest you give this one a miss.

Cerisaye's Review

Three boys bear witness to a mass execution during the Spanish Civil War.† Next day a terrible act of vengeance changes their lives forever.†

Ten years later and theyíre together again.† In a sanatorium.† Where thereís death of a lingering kind, from tuberculosis.† Room 13 is where no one wants to go, a place of no return.† Repressed memories from childhood surface again.† A time of lost innocence.

Ramallo is a wild boy, handsome.† A thief and a hustler who works for a Mr. Morell.† Heís a bad lot but says he wants a new life.† Beautiful Francesca is a nun from his village who carries a torch for him.† Ramallo dreams of the sea, a place to be free.†

Tur will do anything for Ramallo.† Remorse is eating away at his soul and he punishes his body in an attempt to atone for the past.† He takes refuge in religion to kill desire for his friend.† Carmen a married woman who works at the hospital with her husband is in love with Tur.† Another sin on his conscience.† Ramallo wants to help his friend.† But who will help him?

This is a heartbreaking film, full of sadness and death.† Some disturbing sequences including suicide, rape and bloody murder.† Boys of 16 dying horribly, coughing blood, while fellow patients look on wondering if their fate is the same. †

A story of forbidden love, guilt and longing.† Repression and betrayal.† Crime and punishment.† The climax is shocking.† Thereís violence, not the usual Hollywood style, but horribly real.† It shows what happens when a country is torn apart by civil war.† Thereís resonance for our troubled times.† The consequences of war reverberate, scarring those too young to understand.

Itís bleak, almost unbearably so, without any promise of redemption. Featuring stunning performances from a young cast of unknowns, and stark cinematography in keeping with its grim subject matter, this is one not to enjoy but to watch and weep for children for whom war and circumstances meant there was no going back.† There are images I wonít easily forget, and I doubt Iíll feel up to watching again.† Recommended.


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