Carla Simón’s second film revolves around small farmers, but above all, the family and its ties
I think we already said it in this same space: the familiar cosmos is an increasingly common presence in contemporary post-pandemic cinema. Perhaps due to the need to reunite with loved ones after that time of loss; quarantines, isolations and social distance… numerous filmmakers have lately opted to revive their childhood memories, almost always through fiction: Richard Linklater (Apollo 10 ½: A Space Childhood); Paolo Sorrentino (It was the hand of God); Kenneth Branagh (Belfast); Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza); or Steven Spielberg (The Fabelmansforthcoming), to name a few.
Alcarràsthe second film by Carla Simón after the critical success, a few years ago, of her also autobiographical Summer 1993falls into these categories: memory, childhood, family environment.
The director and screenwriter, drawing inspiration from her own family and counting on a cast of non-professional actors and actresses, has given birth to a film full of subtlety, balance, implicit love, and emotion without falling into the maudlin…
A portrait of three generations of farmers who see their lands in danger; because the grandfather never signed a paper with the person who gave them to him to grow them (Those were other times, where contracts were not valid, but the word of a man and the hands that were firmly shaken to seal the agreements). And at the end of the summer they will be kicked out of there. It is, therefore, the last harvest. During which they need to support each other.
The gaze as a bond of family love
With influences from the neorealism of yesteryear and the exquisite The tree of clogs, and with the camera often focusing on the eyes of children and adolescents who observe the sometimes incomprehensible attitudes of adults; and that at the same time transmit love, devotion or disappointments with their eyes. Carla Simón exhumes with a firm hand and sensitivity part of her childhood memories of her; her when she went to spend time on the land of her uncles in Alcarràs, where they grew and picked peaches.
His portrait is universal because it encourages us to remember our own childhoods, in those years when, next to the family home, grandparents, brothers, cousins, uncles and nephews would get together.
In fact, in the first few minutes of this choral film, it is the viewer, paying attention and listening to the dialogues, who must resolve the relationships with the scant data that the director provides us.
Throughout the footage we will see them, almost always together, in their daily chores: fruit picking where everyone lends a hand after the decision to hire fewer seasonal workers; the time in front of the television watching a western while the grandfather falls asleep on the sofa; rehearsals in the church choir; buying fresh food at the flea market; the poaching of rabbits that ruin their crops; fun at town festivals; the barbecues where you laugh and argue; children’s games and also mischief; the sale in the cooperative; grandma’s old stories; school homework; the traditional songs that unite them even more…
The passing discord
But, as in all microcosms, some external element is always introduced that ends up sowing discord, running the risk of breaking the pineapple: the son of the former owner offers them to work for him in the maintenance of the solar panels. For someone to think about it means arousing the anger of the father, Quimet.
And so, for a time, one of the family branches will move away from the house, to the chagrin of the grandparents and, above all, the girls, who do not understand why they cannot see their cousins.
In Alcarràs (shot in Catalan and premiered with subtitles in Spanish) characters of a very diverse nature coexist, allowing viewers to identify. Except, perhaps, in the case of Quimet, the father who, to the chagrin of his relatives, is always furious, berating one another, weighed down by the impotence of seeing his way of life vanish…
The Catholic viewer will have to assume that his continuous blasphemies are only a condition (a trait) of a harsh and at times detestable character, and that the spirit of the film is the opposite of these oral offenses.
In this fabric so rich in details, there is no lack of lament for the decline of the old agricultural systems, of that rural world in extinction in which parents and children fight, suffer and work together.
The last shot, with the large family together, gives us some hope: not in the system, not in governments, but in people, in those grandparents and in those mothers who hug their loved ones while they resist.