Release date: August 13th, 2012
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 103 minutes
Country of origin: Spain
Original language: Spanish with English subtitles
Director: Icíar Bollaín
Writer: Paul Laverty
Cast: Luis Tosar, Gael García Bernal, Karra Elejalde, Juan Carlos Aduviri
As an aspiring filmmaker with a little experience of film sets, it’s always interesting to see the practice itself portrayed on the big screen. From as early as 1910 the behind-the-scenes process interested those with the camera as Herbert Ponting demonstrated how he achieved a particular shot in his silent documentary The Great White Silence (1924).
Since then there’ve been countless films about the craft and the industry, most recently in The Artist (2011), and as someone who loves the medium, they always appeal to me.
I was drawn to seeing this film for that very reason. Described as Herzogian, in reference to Burden Of Dreams (1982), the documentary about the infamous struggles in making his masterpiece Fitzcarraldo, I admit to being seduced by the idea of a director attempting to overcome all odds to bring his vision to the screen. Not just as a tale of personal endurance but perhaps more of artistic stamina.
Interestingly, this is only half of the story of Even The Rain. Directed by Icíar Bollaín and written by her husband Paul Laverty, the film is an attempt not only to examine the creative process and the drive that an independent filmmaker needs to have, but to look at Spain’s colonial past and modern attitudes towards it.
With the film’s producer Costa (Luis Tosar), director Sebastián (Gael García Bernal) and veteran actor Antón (Karra Elejalde) playing Columbus, the narrative surrounding the shoot becomes intertwined with the film’s own plot to show the striking similarities regarding exploitations of indigenous peoples even when the film-within-a-film’s central thesis is the exact opposite.
Sebastián’s dreamt of making an epic art house film which illustrates how the people of the New World were exploited during Columbus’ conquest which people forced to dig for gold to line Spanish coffers. The script centres on one rogue priest who fights against that injustice.
Simultaneously, we are led to draw a stark comparison with the film crew themselves who are encamped in Bolivia using local Cochabamba inhabitants to portray the Taíno people and only paying them $2 per day. A steal for such a mass of extras but their leader, Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri), is angry about the issue of exploitation and as a water crisis erupts in the city with him vocally at the centre of the protests, the shoot is thrown into chaos.
The central thesis of the film is a relatively straight one – exploitation isn’t good, neither are the injustices the “have-nots” suffer on a daily basis – but the way Even The Rain attempts to raise these issues is praiseworthy.
Whilst there’s a fair amount of pontificating, the characters are all complex people and none of them, not even the downtrodden Daniel, are portrayed in black and white.
Antón feels his character is misunderstood in the screenplay and yet he stands up to the Bolivian president over the water crisis and is the architect of a lovely moment towards the end involving a cold can of beer.
Another of the actors, playing the heroic priest, is vocal in support of the indigenous people at the dinner table but cannot escape quickly enough when violent protests begin. Sebastián is a subtly drawn character who’s written a film leaden with colonial guilt and yet whilst championing the cause of a historical people he is allowing exploitation to happen for his own ends.
He’s deeply upset by what is going on around the set, but his ultimate goal is to make his movie regardless of the consequences. It’s touching when, at the film’s climax, he sits alone on a hill contemplating how his dream is crumbling around him. Costa, who’s essentially the lead, has the most formulaic arc in the film going from exploiter to saviour whilst Daniel is the man standing up for good and yet inciting violence for his cause along with accepting bribery to keep his mouth shut until the shoot is over.
The performances are all great and their struggles and issues feel utterly believable and emotionally engaging despite the fact they’re greatly loaded with the surrounding cause. The film’s not perfect though. Whilst the blending of the film world and the real world includes some wonderful moments, it also provides some rather ham-fisted connections to the past and although it finds its place, the water crisis initially feels a little shoe-horned in.
There’s also the problem of Maria, the assistant director who’s essentially there to represent the audience and, with a lot less complexity than the other characters, isn’t interesting or necessary.
Still, Even The Rain is a highly engaging film which ambitiously looks to tackle multiple storylines and multiple themes by bringing them together into one narrative. Whilst Costa and his actions take centre stage as the film progresses, I still found myself sat with Sebastián at the end, wanting to shout at him to get up and keep going as I’m sure Herzog would’ve done.
Ben has had a keen love of moving images since his childhood but after leaving school he fell truly in love with films. His passion manifests itself in his consumption of movies (watching films from all around the globe and from any period of the medium’s history with equal gusto), the enjoyment he derives from reading, talking and writing about cinema and being behind the camera himself having completed his first co-directed short film in mid-2011.
His favourite films include things as diverse as The Third Man, In The Mood For Love, Badlands, 3 Iron, Casablanca, Ran and Grizzly Man to name but a few.