by Marta Bałaga
- BERLINALE 2022: Carla Simón delivers the smallest film that’s worthy of the biggest awards
Nothing really happens in Alcarràs [+see also:
interview: Carla Simón
interview: Giovanni Pompili
film profile], Carla Simón’s follow-up to the equally special Summer 1993 [+see also:
interview: Carla Simón
film profile], and yet everything does, as one family’s entire world is about to change forever. Outside, nobody really cares – nobody really notices. But in this Berlinale competition entry, Simón practises the “inside” kind of filmmaking, coming as close as she can, peeking through leaves and seemingly trying her best to refrain from hugging the protagonists. It’s nothing short of miraculous that they are all given their own moments to exist here and little things to care for, be it a dance routine to yet another “girlboss” song or, well, a nice little bush of weed. Frankly, she might be one of the most tender directors around.
The shift in their daily, sun-drenched existence starts slowly, as the kids watch helplessly as one of their favourite playgrounds is taken apart one day. There is no explanation, but soon it becomes obvious – the Solé family is facing eviction. In the old days, people didn’t sign contracts, protests the grandfather. But the old days are no more, and neither is the landowner who “gave him his word” after the Spanish Civil War, and if you don’t have the papers to prove it, you need to move on and evolve. Even if it means saying goodbye to something you loved and cared for.
It's a bit ironic that environmentally friendly solar panels emerge as a villain in this film, set in the Catalonian countryside, taking over the orchards and changing people’s lives. Picking peaches is no longer viewed as a viable occupation, but for the longest time, this group just keeps on going, pretending the problem will just go away. Interestingly, for such a tight-knit household, nobody seems capable of sharing their pain or their worries with others, reacting with either rage or denial – where one is bringing over some figs as a peace offering, the other threatens to cut down the whole tree. And the kids are just running around, observing and eavesdropping on whispering adults. It’s not just the end of the world; it’s the end of their childhood, perhaps, as once these trees are gone, it might be time to grow up.
Simón is an extremely subtle filmmaker, so there aren’t any huge conversations here spelling everything out – you keep it all in, until you can’t any more, which also means that the inevitable breakdown is that much more painful to witness. You are allowed to hum songs, however, some of them about the days when things used to be easier. She does make it clear that her story about one family is really anything but, with so many facing the exact same problem – her own family also owns a peach farm, so talk about making films about something you know. They take to the streets, protest, but they don’t really seem to believe it’s possible to go back: it’s their last stand. This tiny, slow story might find it hard to break out – unless some awards were to follow – as the word “agriculture” usually does the trick of successfully scaring viewers away. But whatever these people do, and however they try to fight, Simón makes it incredibly easy to care.
Alcarràs is a Spanish-Italian co-production staged by Elastica Films, Avalon Productora Cinematográfica and Vilaüt Film, and co-produced by Kino Produzioni. Its world sales have been entrusted to mk2 Films.
Photogallery 15/02/2022: Berlinale 2022 - Alcarràs
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