Review: Sunday’s Illness
by Alfonso Rivera
- BERLIN 2018: Ramón Salazar injects beauty, pain, sorrow and tension into his fourth feature, his most mature and sophisticated yet
When one is searching for answers, another person’s prolonged silence or truth dodging can be a mighty heavy burden that ends up causing scar-like damage. This could be considered one of the intense subjects tackled by Malaga-born director Ramón Salazar (1973) in his fourth feature, Sunday’s Illness [+see also:
interview: Ramón Salazar
film profile], which has been world-premiered in the Panorama section of the 68th Berlin Film Festival, three days ahead of its release in Spanish cinemas. Salazar returns to the German gathering 16 years after he competed in its official section with his feature debut, Stones, an ensemble film that was diametrically opposed, in both its language and its cinematic qualities, to the one under consideration here. The filmmaker now demonstrates a graceful, measured and sensitive maturity, staying well away from overemphasis, stylistic exhibitionism and that desire to cram thousands of issues into one’s first film.
Susi Sánchez, who previously played a minor role in Stones and who would go on to be one of the leads in 10.000 noches en ninguna parte [+see also:
interview: Ramón Salazar
film profile], Salazar’s previous directorial outing, turns up in the first few scenes of Sunday’s Illness, similar to Tilda Swinton in Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love [+see also:
interview: Luca Guadagnino - director
film profile], albeit with a few more years on the clock, strolling majestically around a palace in Barcelona, like a panther on the prowl. She plays Anabel, a cool, indifferent lady from high society who devotes all her tenacity, brainpower and absolute determination to maintaining her status. But at dinner that night, somebody – someone who does not obey her meticulously calculated orders, someone who strays off the map she so carefully designed – will reopen a wound that she thought she had healed and had under control.
Bárbara Lennie plays Chiara, an erratic girl who has been emotionally unstable ever since a traumatic event from her childhood transformed her into what she is now: someone who will forever be incomplete, hurt, unhappy and dissatisfied. In Sunday’s Illness, the encounter between these two heavily armoured creatures drip-feeds us from an underground spring of pent-up emotions (which appeal to guilt, redemption and neglect). Salazar’s remarkable and intelligent knack for narrative leads us through territory verging on psychological thriller and family drama, but he never takes the easy way out, or falls into the traps of predictability or sentimentality.
If Paul Thomas Anderson was the Spanish filmmaker’s role model for his debut effort, it now appears that Ingmar Bergman (particularly his Persona and Autumn Sonata) and the aforementioned Guadagnino have wormed their way into the DNA of this Sunday illness, which the director himself, just like the character of Chiara, claims to suffer from. An infinite sadness overwhelms him at dusk on that particular day of the week – the same sadness that we live and breathe in this minimalistic and intimate film, where the wintry landscape that surrounds the characters (expertly lensed by Ricardo de Gracia, also the DoP on various other films by Salazar, such as 20 Centimeters [+see also:
film profile]) effectively intensifies this state of mind.
Sunday’s Illness, which was written and directed by Ramón Salazar, edited by the seasoned Teresa Font (The Furies [+see also:
film profile]) and scored by Nico Casal (María (and Everybody Else) [+see also:
interview: Nely Reguera
film profile]), was produced by Zeta Cinema and On Cinema 2017, with the involvement of RTVE, TV3, ICAA, ICEC and ICO. Caramel Films is overseeing its Spanish theatrical release.
(Translated from Spanish)
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