Penélope: The art of waiting
by Alfonso Rivera
- Eva Vila’s most recent feature is a free-flowing interpretation of one of Homer’s classic myths, shot in rural surroundings with amateur actors, passing on a legacy on the brink of extinction
Eva Vila (Barcelona, 1975) has already won numerous awards for her previous film, Bajarí (2013), which she filmed after B-Side: la cara B de la música en Barcelona e El espacio de uno mismo. In addition to her work as a director, she also teaches a Master’s course in creative documentary studies at the Università Pompeu Fabra, and has produced numerous films for directors such as Isaki Lacuesta, Mercedes Álvarez and Ricardo Íscar. Her new film, Penélope, had its world premiere in competition as part of the official section for the 14th Seville European Film Festival, contending with another documentary that is also about time and legacy: The Sea Stares at Us From Afar [+see also:
interview: Manuel Muñoz Rivas
film profile] by Seville-born Manuel Muñoz Rivas.
Penelope, as you may infer from the title, is a free, sensory and poetic interpretation of one of Homer’s classic myths, taking place in a charming and somewhat surreal rural setting thanks to its formal treatment process, its photography and most importantly the soundtrack (you really get a sense of time here) that Eva Vila has selected to accompany the ways of life of a generation that are currently on the brink of extinction. In order to do so, she’s made the most of the candour of a cast of non-professional characters/actors who feature in the film as themselves: Ramón Clotet Sala and Carme Tarte Vilardell. Sala embodies – or rather offers himself up as the focus of cinematographer Julián Elizalde’s camera lens – a man returning to his native land. While Vilardell, with her one hundred years of experience, is one of the few seamstresses still to be found in Spanish towns.
They both exist in an indefinite place in space and time, which gives the film a somewhat timeless feel – sitting somewhere between a dream world and reality – that evokes the nostalgic films of Víctor Erice: The Spirit of the Beehive, but above all, El Sur. Time stands still in this documentary (the screenplay was written by the director and Pep Puig), which is divided into chapters, accompanied by a female voice-over reciting excerpts from the The Odyssey, and melodies performed by the singer Alejandra Barber, which help to punctuate a fragile and atmospheric mood that appeals to the art of waiting.
The ringing of bells, the sound of nature, the ticking of a clock and the buzz of a radio – broadcasting news on the current crisis, as well as the mythical program El Consultorio by Elena Francis. These sounds immerse the audience in a non-space and time, embodied by this film, which offers a reinterpretation of the famous myth by adding a sceptical element: the man who returns lacks the aura of hero, forgotten, having been weighed down by the baggage of the journey. And Penelope carries on sewing, as the decades go by....
Penélope is an Araki Films (Spain) and Poland Studio (Poland) production, and also received support from the ICEC (Institut Català de les Empreses Culturals) Eurimages program, ICAA ("Institue de la Cinematografía y de las Artes Audiovisuales) and TV3 (Televisió de Catalunya).
(Translated from Spanish)
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