Dir. Paula Ortiz. Spain. 2015. 97mins.
Impossibly handsome and styled to within a glass splinter of its life, this version of Federico Garcia Lorca’s play Blood Wedding is more at home with symbolic imagery than it is with authentic passion. The tale of a doomed love triangle between the eponymous young woman (Inma Cuesta), her groom and the lover who married her cousin is a striking piece of work. The setting is spectacular – a bone-parched desert dotted with priapic rock formations and ruined buildings which brood like simmering grudges. And the design is intriguing and disorientating, appropriating both contemporary and period details.
There’s an undercurrent of strident surreality and declamatory performance here which evokes Julie Taymor’s approach to Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
But the poetic sensibility and daring on show elsewhere in the film is absent from the core romance. With a reliance on lip chewing, smouldering glances and dishevelled corsets, this has more in common with the lexicon of a soap opera or a Mills and Boone cover illustration. Paula Ortiz’s picture has opened strongly in Spain following festival screenings in San Sebastian, Sitges, Madrid and Tallinn Black Nights, among others. And it leads the field in the Goyas, having scored twelve nominations. It is possible, however, that the film’s appeal could be markedly less potent outside Spain’s borders.
The Bride is the limpid-eyed only daughter of an elderly glassblower, a profession which lends itself to lots of striking shots of shattering shards and fragile trinkets crushed like her girlish romantic dreams. Her groom (Asier Etxeandia) is a good match – a young man with prospects who worships his wife-to-be. But the Bride still yearns for her lost love, Leonardo (Álex Garcia). He has taken to thundering around the dusty plains on an unruly stallion, which is a fairly unequivocal metaphor for his unchecked virility. It also happens that Leonardo and the Groom come from opposite sides of a long-running blood feud which has stained the desert sands with generations of impetuously spilled blood.
The Bride’s doubts about her upcoming union manifest themselves in the form of a wild-haired crone who cautions her, quite reasonably, not to go through with the wedding if she doesn’t love her husband-to-be. The Bride embarks on a marathon bout of pensive bosom-heaving and lip-chewing, but continues with the marriage.
The groom’s mother (a wonderfully toxic turn from Luisa Gavasa), looks on suspiciously, her displeasure spreading like an oil slick. “I like men who are men and wheat that is wheat,” she announces ominously at one point. There’s an undercurrent of strident surreality and declamatory performance here which evokes Julie Taymor’s approach to Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
The burnished colour palette is rich with ambers and ochres, yellowish hues that evoke the jealousy that throbs throughout this scorched melodrama. The only other colour used is the crimson of spilt blood. There’s plenty of it, even before this torrid menage a trois reaches its overwrought conclusion: the Bride is plagued by hallucinations of stigmata, and repeatedly imagines plucking bloodied glass fragments from her mouth. Ortiz links sexual passion with madness and doom throughout.
Production company: Get in the Picture Prods., Cine Chromatix KG production
International sales: Fortissimo Films firstname.lastname@example.org
Producers: Alex Lafuente, Rosana Tomas
Screenplay: Javier Garcia, Paula Ortiz, from the play by Federico Garcia Lorca
Cinematography: Migue Amoedo
Editor: Javier Garcia
Production design: Jesus Bosqued, Pilar Quintana
Main cast: Inma Cuesta, Álex García, Asier Etxeandía, Leticia Dolera, Luisa Gavasa