El Mar

"Very Good"

El Mar Review


Though brightly lit by the harsh Mallorcan sun, El Mar is a film of tremendous darkness, a troubling meditation on history and violence and sickness of both the body and the soul. Set during the difficult days of the Spanish Civil War and then ten years later in the first years after World War II, it considers the fates of three children of violence who grow into young adults without successfully processing all the horrors they've seen.

As children, Francisca, Ramallo, and Manuel witness seemingly random firing squads in their dirt-poor village. Members of their own families are killed before their eyes, and when another child taunts Ramallo, saying his father was a bad guy, Ramallo has no problem with killing the kid by bashing his head against a rock and then stabbing him in the throat for good measure.

Ten years later Francisca (Antònia Torrens), Ramallo (Roger Casamajor), and Manuel (Bruno Bergonzini) are reunited in the strangest of places: a Magic Mountain-like tuberculosis sanatorium. The fragile Manuel has been there for a while, and Francisca, now a nun, works there as a nurse with a passion for doing the laundry and ironing. Ramallo, with a swagger that suggests he's still as dangerous as he was as a boy, is a new arrival with instructions to stay for at least a couple of months.

Manuel, a devout Catholic, is troubled by Ramallo's reappearance because his boyhood crush immediately transforms into the kind of love God doesn't sanction. Ramallo, who exudes sexual power, seems to realize this and enjoys tormenting not only Manuel but also all the other TB patients in the ward. The X-rated stories of his sexual adventures get them all riled up.

Ramallo is also a black marketeer and the gay-for-pay boy toy of a much older man who runs a smuggling operation. He starts scheming to hijack incoming supplies of TB medicine, swearing Manuel to secrecy and opening the door to all kinds of danger.

When the blood flows in El Mar, it flows bright red against the white sheets and white walls of the sanatorium. And it flows a lot. TB victims cough up blood copiously in their death throes, Manuel's sexual panic turns into self-inflicted stigmata, and eventually Ramallo has a hatchet in hand as his criminal plots start to turn dangerous.

Director Agusti Villaronga keeps everything tight, claustrophobic, and just sickening enough so that you, too, feel like a patient in the clinic. Though the doors are open, the sanatorium feels inescapable, a prison of religion and secrets and sickness, where each day brings at least one bloody death. All three lead characters will find deliverance in a fashion, but it won't be pretty. Ramallo's final encounter with Manuel, in which he feels the need to express the sexual control he's always had, is memorable for its brutality.

The message is clear: Children learn the ways of the world early. They take the horrors they see in childhood with them into adulthood and express them in their own new horrific ways. It's a depressing concept, but it makes for interesting stories.

Aka The Sea.

See the sea.



El Mar

Facts and Figures

Run time: 107 mins

In Theaters: Friday 14th April 2000

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Agustí Villaronga

Producer: , Lluís Ferrando,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.