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Review: Arima


- Jaione Camborda makes her feature-length debut with a story about women and ghosts in which the real fuses with the imaginary, creating a new dimension that is simultaneously welcoming and disturbing

Review: Arima
Nagore Arias and Melania Cruz in Arima

The New Waves section of the 16th Seville European Film Festival has hosted the European premiere of Arima [+see also:
interview: Jaione Camborda
film profile
, the feature debut by Galician-based Basque director Jaione Camborda. The movie begins with a brief prologue where we see a human eye in extreme close-up. As we observe all the minute details of said organ, it stares straight back at us and gradually transforms into something more abstract, something akin to the surface of some mysterious, uncharted land.

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After this short introduction, we meet the main characters, all of whom are female. The naked body of one of them (Iria Parada), which is being used as a live model in a painting class, is scrutinised closely by both the camera and the artists using it as their guide. Among them is another of the protagonists, a young mother (Rosa Puga Davila) who is attending the art class with her little daughter (Nagore Arias). The teacher leading the class (Melania Cruz) and her mother (Mabel Rivera), who will make an appearance a little later on in the film, are the five female lynchpins that the movie hinges on. The setting in which the relationship between the characters unfolds is a small town in Galicia, a damp, foggy place where the stone blocks of the houses and the walls seems to blend in totally naturally with the green hues of the mountain they were built on. The other key element of the story is a mysterious hunter (Tito Asorey) who turns up in the town chasing a man who is highly dangerous – or so he claims.

The description of the relationship between a group of women in a closed-minded, rural environment, which Camborda’s camera observes intently and serenely, is only the first of several layers to be explored in this work. Through the things that these ladies do and say – but, above all, thanks to the things that are hidden from the audience – the film manages to build up an entirely new dimension. This is unsettling and forces us to keep paying attention as we attempt to make out what might be peeking out from behind a mere slit of a doorway. Through the eyes of the little girl, who is innocent and free of prejudice, we come into contact with other elements that lead this apparently realistic movie to explore avenues that have more in common with a tale of the supernatural. In this way, we edge further into a dimension in which the past and the present intermingle, and where the power of feelings such as desire, suspicion, fear and love becomes palpable.

Camborda has an astonishing ability to use recognisable elements to come up with a totally original reality, which is in equal parts disconcerting and fascinating. In particular, she manages to do so thanks to her ability to capture the details lurking behind the glances of her characters and the movements of their bodies. But it’s also on account of her sensitivity when it comes to depicting a peculiar place, in which the remnants of the past and the overwhelming beauty of nature are harnessed and utilised by the filmmaker to create powerful and dense images in which the invisible – that which the human eye at the start of the film is unable to see – is made flesh.

Arima is an Esnatu Zinema production, and its international sales have been entrusted to The Open Reel.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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