The Valladolid film festival presented a Spanish section which deserves to be noticed for two films at least. Carmen by Vicente Aranda, a faithful adaptation in its style and the epic atmosphere of the French novel of the 19th century. Paz Vega plays a very beautiful Carmen in the literary tradition of the author, Prospér Mérimée, that is to say that she is the original “sauvageonne” in which irresistible beauty is coupled with a feminist temperament well before its time.
More interesting still is Maria Querida in which the director José Luis Garcia Sanchez traces the portrait of an exemplary figure in the Spain´s 20th century’s history. But who is Maria Querida? Maria Zambrano, a woman as beautiful as she is rebellious, was a leading figure in the anti-Franco political, philosophical and social movements of the country at the time. Through personal commitment and the books she wrote which have been somewhat forgotten in the intervening years. Exiled for forty-five years, Maria Zambrano returned to Spain after the death of the dictator. When the old lady receives the Cervantes Prize, the first woman ever to receive it, a young woman director takes notice and decides to devote an entire programme to her. Throug the reportage is born an exceptional coming together where one sees how the old writer passes on to the young woman the conscience of her country in making her feel the depth of the moments in her country´s history that the young woman had never experienced. She communicates to her a sense of freedom of life and of thought that the young director will never forget after the death of the writer. Nor will the spectator…
Neither documentary nor fiction, this pilgrimage adroitly conducted to the depth of the Spanish conscience is a journey with fault, sensitive, invigorating and above all instructive. Which spectator from here or from elsewhere can leave the film without immediately wanting to buy the books that Maria Zambrano wrote? Pilar Bardem plays the role with a force of character and a resplendent grace such that it won her the Best Actress award at Valladolid.
Anne de Gasperi
© FIPRESCI 2004