The moor (Spain, 2021). Direction: David Casademunt. Film script: David Casademunt, Martí Lucas, Fran Menchón. Photography: Isaac Vila. Mounting: Alberto de Toro. Cast: Inma Cuesta, Asier Flores, Roberto Álamo, Alejandra Howard, Víctor Benjumea. Duration: 92 minutes. Available in: Netflix. Our opinion: good.
Yes OK The moor is located in 19th century Spain, the bleak scenario may correspond to that of social isolation imposed by the pandemic in the first months of 2020, turning the suppression of the outside world into the inevitable irruption of the inner ghosts. In the film, the space is open and infinite, but in the distance an imperceptible limit is glimpsed that marks the beginning of a territory of war, marked by death and mystery.
The inhabitants of this inhospitable place are Lucía (Inma Cuesta), her husband Salvador (Roberto Álamo) and their little son Diego (Asier Flores), day by day concentrating on the rituals of survival: caring for the few plantations, caring for of the corral of the animals, the cleaning of the modest house. Diego glimpses outside the mirror of his parents’ fear, who identify the distant war as the threatening monster. When the boy’s birthday, his father, sullen and taciturn, gives him a shotgun with his name engraved on it. “It is time for you to become a man.” The danger, Salvador explains through the fable of an evil beast that led his sister to death, does not come from the will of the other but from one’s own weakness. It is there where the latest horror nests, the one that drives the journey of the film itself.
The Catalan David Casademunt explores that expressive aspect of terror, reluctant to the most effective blows, and focused on the progressive deterioration of the balance of the characters as their fears take control. For this reason, its history grows thinner until it becomes somewhat repetitive, entangled in that single idea that presides over it. What counts is the definition of a style, less typical than appropriate to the Gothic tradition, that transforms the haunted house into this dark and stormy place, the scarecrows in the distance, the shadows that outline the silhouette of a threat. The idea is not original, but it is interesting how it is exposed, what happens is that as the minutes go by, what was sinister becomes familiar; there are no changes of state that allow the viewer to renew the commitment to that fatality that he or she perceives in advance.
The forced coexistence of Lucía and Diego, when Salvador must venture abroad to track down the family of an unexpected visitor, deconstructs that relationship between mother and child beyond the care and protection on her part, or the respect and obedience for part of the child, on a path of growing estrangement that includes the menacing beast in an imaginary triangle. Lucía resists Salvador’s impositions to turn her son into a man of arms, condemned to violence and war. Together they sing songs, model wooden figures, celebrate a loving complicity. But the sudden loneliness and the irruption of fear coagulate their own security, rearm that relationship in a growing competition, hostility, underground violence. The scene in which she shoots against the horizon is interesting while Diego is wrapped in the sheets that hung on a rope, away from that noise due to the whiteness of the cloth and the howling of the wind, trapped in the ambiguous experience of the mother’s womb.
The film encounters its greatest obstacles in the final section, in which the resolution is postponed by dilation of a state of terror whose axis is the transformation of parents, absent or present, in the face of threat. Inma Cuesta’s work is magnificent; In this sense, she reveals herself as an actress capable of concentrating the coexistence of opposites – as she demonstrated in Juliet by Almodóvar: from the seductress to the suffering woman- and filling the screen when there is nowhere to look. The idea of claustrophobic space, a house whose dimensions are distorted by the irruption of fear, the emergence of dreams, the tensions between confinement and external danger, is enhanced in Diego’s gaze, confined to the limits imposed by adults : the latrine, the corral, all marked by permits and prohibitions. That temptation from the outside and the awareness of its danger, in tune with the fairy tales in the style of Little Red Riding Hood, is still the metaphor of the end of childhood and its so-called innocence.
Casademunt’s longed-for virtuosity has its pitfalls: denying the known resources of terror can entangle the film in an exercise in admirable style but somewhat tedious when it comes to waiting for its resolution. We will have to await the director’s next step in a genre in which he demonstrated some auspicious ideas.