Uncertain Glory: Passion on the path of war
by Alfonso Rivera
- Agustí Villaronga brings us a story of betrayal and violence set against the backdrop of war, with two men and two women, the collateral victims of their turbulent time
Agustí Villaronga is one of the Spanish directors with most potential around at the moment. Now he’s releasing Uncertain Glory [+see also:
interview: Agustí Villaronga
film profile], the adaptation - by the director and Coral Cruz – of the book of the same name by Joan Sales, which was written in 1954 after the author experienced the violence it describes herself, and is a Catalonian literature classic. The Majorcan director’s previous works include The King of Havana [+see also:
film profile] – which was filmed in the Caribbean and was chosen for the official selection of the San Sebastián Film Festival two years ago – and, in 2010, Black Bread [+see also:
film profile], the film which won nine Goya awards and catapulted him into the top league of Spanish cinema, where he seems to have made a firm place for himself.
As in the latter film, the Spanish Civil War is the dirty, dark, morbid and chaotic backdrop against which Villaronga’s tormented characters fight for survival. We recognise the work of most of the same team in Uncertain Glory, which was also commissioned by Isona Passola of Massa D´Or Produccions, who also produced Pasajero clandestino (1995), El mar (1999) and documentary El testamento de Rosa (2015), all directed by Villaronga: here too the atmosphere, the costumes and the locations faithfully portray those days of pain, blood and fury, although the camera of Josep M. Civit (director of photography for The King of Havana) does not lead us into battle, but into the surrounding towns, to show us how Cainesque cruelty has infected their inhabitants.
It is around the characters, who the director adores, that the action of the film revolves: Lluís (Marcel Borràs) is a young republican soldier destined for a period of inactivity on the Aragonese front; there he meets an older woman, Carlana (Núria Prims, who rose to fame in Historias del Kronen in 1995, and has not appeared in any films for almost a decade), who he becomes infatuated with and does not hesitate in using the boy to become the richest woman in the region.
But Lluís has a wife, Trini (Bruna Cusí, who we will soon see in Verano 1993 [+see also:
interview: Carla Simón
film profile]), and a son back in Barcelona. When Soleràs (Oriol Pla, famous for his role as the son of Ricardo Darín in Truman [+see also:
interview: Cesc Gay
film profile]), a close friend of Lluís, discovers what’s going on and his friend’s emotional betrayal, he decides to blackmail him into taking his wife, who Soleràs is secretly in love with, away from Barcelona, which is under constant bombing. Once she gets to the camp, Trini starts to suspect her husband is lying to her, and another war – an intimate war of morals – breaks out between the four main characters.
Villaronga accentuates the more melodramatic, course and tumultuous side of the original book in this film adaptation, which incorporates some of the themes most dear to the director: violence, the loss of innocence, corruption, evil, power and its mechanisms. Ambiguity becomes the most shared quality of these people, who are plagued by a terrible life and an ill-fated story, with the femme fatal that is Carlana standing out in particular, imbued by Núria Prims with a sense of mystery, body and lots of character. The past, which is unforgettable, and the disappearance of illusions and ideals, are other conflicts that torment these eternally wounded characters, a recurring theme in the filmography of a director who started his career with risky, unique and unsettling films of the likes of Tras el cristal and El niño de la Luna.
Uncertain Glory is a Massa d'Or Produccions and Televisió de Catalunya production with the participation of TVE, Movistar+ and Aragón TV, the support of ICEC and ICAA, and Urresti Producciones on board as associate producer. The film is being distributed by Alfa Pictures and sold by Film Factory Entertainment.
(Translated from Spanish)