Oro: A human pack of wolves
by Alfonso Rivera
- Agustín Díaz Yanes returns to the world of Spanish cinema with an ambitious historical film in which he grapples with the misfortunes and violence of a group of conquistadors in search of El Dorado
There was a great longing for Oro [+see also:
interview: Agustín Díaz Yanes
film profile]: the new film by Agustín Díaz Yanes had generated huge expectations ever since the project was announced. Not only does it mark the return to the arena of one of the most highly respected filmmakers in Spain (just look at titles such as Nobody Will Speak of Us When We’re Dead, No News from God and Alatriste [+see also:
film profile]), but it was also an adaptation of another text written by Arturo Pérez Reverte and was able to rely on a cast of bankable stars, such as Raúl Arévalo, José Coronado, Juan Diego, Bárbara Lennie, Anna Castillo, Andrés Gertrudix, Luis Callejo, Óscar Jaenada, José Manuel Cervino, Antonio Dechent and Juan José Ballesta. Add to that the support of a vast media group, Atresmedia, and the meticulous care and attention that Enrique López Lavigne, of Apache Films, always lavishes upon his endeavours, and this looked sure to become something rather special. And Oro is indeed special, but is not so effortless and commercially orientated so as to make the entire arena wave their handkerchiefs.
Díaz Yanes, who is the son of a bullfighter (a fact that was blindingly obvious in his aforementioned feature debut), trusted fully in his crew to give Oro the requisite look for a film like this, which reconstructs a tumultuous and mysterious period. This is achieved by the cinematography of Paco Femenía, which lends the movie a damp and murky atmosphere; the score by Javier Limón, which stresses the oppressive tension through its chords; and the art direction of Javier Fernández, which turns a jungle on the Canary Islands into a claustrophobic, hostile and bewildering prison. Through these uncharted surroundings, a group of Spanish conquistadors glides like a giant human serpent, in search of that mythical city built from gold, the most valuable of metals.
They form a commando of anonymous soldiers forced into this expedition, accompanied by two women and a handful of Native Indians, who, spurred on by the need to escape from their destitution in Spain, have embarked upon a quest that is as absurd as it is fanciful. The church is also by their side, as is a representative of the king, who gradually writes up an account of this voyage into the heart of darkness. Along the way, the group will be overcome by raw, brutal fury. They are filthy on the outside – and, with every step they take, increasingly on the inside as well.
Díaz Yanes does not skimp on the blood, guts or sorrow in this adventure film, which oozes uneasy and melancholy vibes, all set in a suicidal era. Almost none of its characters conveys integrity – on the contrary, like rabid wolves, they are driven by mean-spirited motives, without even a shred of nobility. And when the time comes to kill a rival, they have no qualms about raising their swords or twisting a dagger while looking straight into their enemy’s eyes: violence becomes so organic and natural in Oro that it causes the viewer’s very soul to shudder. Murder, rape or denying someone help may seem unbelievably callous to us today, but during the conquest of America, these were the regular weapons of choice. All of this gives Oro an uncomfortable and harsh veneer that makes it a rara avis of today’s cinema, as well as a kind of boggy, twilit western that paints a portrait of how cruel and merciless humankind can potentially be.
Oro is a production by Apache Films, Atresmedia Cine, Virtual Contenidos, Áralan Films and Tezutlan Films AIE, with the involvement of Telefónica Studios and Canal Sur, plus backing from the ICAA. Sony is in charge of its distribution in Spanish theatres, which will begin on 10 November.
(Translated from Spanish)
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