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3/10
La Soledad
(Solitary Fragments)
Dir: Jaime Rosales
2007

It is so interesting how people can disagree so radically over a film. It seems that La Soledad is a clear case of love or hate. Some people rave about it and even identify in some way to the characters. Maybe I found the film difficult to enter into because, luckily, my life has never been made up of such a dense compendium of void and mundane conversations. Maybe because I find the character development non-existent. A fly-on-the-wall representation of characters metaphorically picking their noses through life. No passion, no emotional or intellectual response, we are all reduced to cardboard animals.

At least Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, the undoubted modern-day heroes of realism in cinema, seem to want to give depth, responsibility and substance to their characters. Though, admittedly, they are intellectual film-makers who have a message to convey. Jaime Rosales takes no stance, portrays no significant beliefs, and contents himself with portraying mundanity at its most insignificant. I assume that is the reason why the film is called La Soledad (loneliness), not only the loneliness which a bomb on a bus leaves behind, but the fundamental loneliness of the characters throughout the film.

The two main characters, Adela and Antonia, both wander through life without any psychological, emotional or intellectual, attachment to their actions. If the film is attempting to hold them up as examples of normality, I find it a very patronising assumption.

Adela decides to leave her small village for Madrid, taking her young child with her and leaving her father and ex-husband behind her. She seems to adapt to the new, bustling city, without any effort or emotional response whatsoever. She luckily finds a flat with two idyllic housemates, who, after catastrophe strikes, seem to return to routine without any real trace of trauma. Antonia sits by, unperturbed, as one of her daughters is diagnosed with cancer and another asks her to sell her own house to buy herself a second holiday home. Unperturbed until she dies.

Stretching and condensing time in order to only portray the mundane, Rosales manages to show how people will adapt to any situation and can make inane small-talk at any moment in their life. A truism, but if film-making is reduced to how pathetic we humans can be, then sincerely, I do not think there is much to applaud.

It possibly won a Goya because the jury were crying out for Spanish films which opt for new visual formats (the screen often splits spaces into two, showing different perspectives, which break the logical continuity of the space), and dare to use cinematographic realism as the basis of the acting and dialogues, and not because it is actually any good.

The only highlight is José Luis Torrijo who provides an outstanding performance. Ironical that he should win the Goya as Best New Actor, as he lets the film down in its cardboard realism, and gives the only credible, human performance.

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