The Apostate: change is hard
by Alfonso Rivera
- The third film by Federico Veiroj is a co-production between Spain, Uruguay and France and won a special mention from the jury and the Fipresci prize at this Year’s San Sebastián Film Festival
The Apostate [+see also:
film profile] screams love of film: not only is Fernando Franco – director of Wounded [+see also:
interview: Fernando Franco
film profile] – behind the editing and production, but established names from Spanish cinema such as Jaime Chávarri (in the entertaining role of a priest, the guardian of the sacred books on baptism) and Manuel Pérez Estremera make a brief appearance to the joy of audiences, with nods to Luis Buñuel and Carlos Saura also featuring in this tragicomic existential fairy tale.
Federico Veiroj, his director and co-screenwriter (together with Gonzalo Delgado, Nicolás Saad and Álvaro Ogalla, who plays the lead and has experienced part of what the film is about himself), has his protagonist ask questions and question himself about everything, like a young Woody Allen in the traditional La Latina quarter, in the streets and churches of which most of the film was shot. Its anti-hero, Gonzalo, intends, as the title suggests, to leave the Catholic Church: he no longer wants to be part, even just as a number, of an institution in which he doesn’t feel comfortable, having been put there without his consent when he was a child. In this Kafkaesque process, his whole life and family legacy is brought to the fore, uncovering aspects of his past that he thought had been put to bed: and so, certain nightmares start to invade his life with surprising clarity… Because leaving some institutions is harder than it looks, and whether we like it or not, God is everywhere, even in the lyrics of songs and figures of speech.
Of course, the main character in this film violates the commandments of the law of God, but The Apostate is not anticlerical or against Christianity, rather the well-scored portrait (the film’s eclectic soundtrack features Enrique Morente, Prokofiev and Lorca, among others) of a confused, non-conformist man, immature and insecure, who describes himself as being “protective of his own consistency:” In this mission to remain true to himself, he comes to blows with a mother (the great Vicky Peña) who ‘raises hell’ when she finds out that her son wishes to abandon the ‘catholic club’, appealing to the sacrosanct family institution and accusing Gonzalo of being selfish for not considering how his decision will affect others: here Veiroj introduces the most folkloristic element of the film, which goes from one style to another in a somewhat risky succession, perhaps because it doesn’t consider the impact that this decision might have on the viewer, how they might blame the director for the hypothetical protective mother in this orthodox film narrative. In the end, the film comes to the conclusion that when faced with extremely Kafkaesque situations, such as the one in this film, there’s nothing to do but rebel: break the rules and the heavy – never-ending – protocols.
The Apostate – which competed in the Official Section of this year’s San Sebastián Film Festival after being screened at Toronto – is a co-production between Spain, France and Uruguay, and is being sold internationally by FiGa Films.
(Translated from Spanish)