White and Gray in Francisco Vargas’ El Violin (2005) October 11, 2008Posted by Richard Bolisay in European Films, Spanish Filmfest.
Written and directed by Francisco Vargas
Cast: Angel Tavira, Gerardo Taracena, Dagoberto Gama
The apparent selling point of films with musical references in their titles also risks their predictability. That emphasis on the motif involuntarily conditions the viewer to challenge his expectations on whether or not this motif can support the film in delivering its point by using it as an all-embracing representative. It works – – but it limits too; sometimes it even drowns the entire film with unnecessary scoring and uneven handling of the material, eagerly relying on audio-visual spectacle to drive the story home, manholes and shortcuts included. Some impressive pieces, however, tend to go beyond their facade and break into an incredibly serious fate by examining the shaky values of their characters, as seen in Haneke’s Piano Teacher and Polanski’s Pianist. Isabelle Huppert and Adrien Brody stand out against their backdrops, especially in Brody’s case where the war participates in the story as much as he does, and elevate the discourse into a wider mold of intercultural argument, albeit the universality of its message, which world cinema always try to provide – – a symposium for collective and critical understanding, despite the differences. The motif does not eat the story but rather gives it a substantial whole, both dynamic and manipulative.
Vargas’ debut film succeeds in doing that. El Violin weaves a familiar web of armed resistance against military troops, striking for its mere resemblance to our own woes down south, which makes you wonder if the only common factor among Spanish-colonized countries is moving towards communism. A family of musicians, Don Plutarco’s son and grandson wander the streets not only to fend themselves but also to carry out plans in helping the guerillas intensify their armory. His son holds an important post in the rebel group; when his wife and daughter got killed, he has more than enough reasons to continue the fight, but the inadequacy of their firearms and ammunitions foresees their defeat. Don Plutarco’s earned friendship with a commanding officer through his violin promises a plot twist, and rightfully so, what happens illuminates the brutal credit sequence – – a clever use of sound and interspersed shots of a man being tortured and a woman getting raped. It ends with a pinch of scruple on the lives of the three of them – – the grandfather, the son, and the grandson, both by blind chance and maimed futures – – a streak of unbearable incubus, something that can never be erased by light and darkness. It wallows in the so-called humanity of the oppressed and not only examines the vapid makeshifts of violence but also bloats the logic of absurdity. The music is far from majestic; it only serves its mundane purpose. Vargas discolors truth in order to give room for emotions that are barely given importance in cinema. Somehow it makes me wonder why Dumont hasn’t learned these things yet.
*Película Pelikula: 7th Spanish Film Festival, October 1 – 12, Greenbelt 3 Cinema 1