Cynthia and I have just started our Spanish class so there is no reason to give this Spanish film a miss. Before you read on, if you are not a huge fan of the European picture house movies, chances are you may not enjoy this at all. Simply a fan is not enough, must be a huge one. It’s slow; it’s random; it’s the seventies.
Now, with that expectation set, “Summer Rain” is Antonio Banderas’s second Spanish movie as a director. Subtly, he expresses his own ambition and emotion to the Spanish film industry through the movie. The Spanish title is “Camino de los Ingleses, El”. That roughly translates to “The English Road” or “The English Way”. Be it as “Summer Rain” or “The English Road”, both concepts relate directly to the story. Perhaps the former one is easier for the audience to connect with.
Let’s look at how faithfully “Summer Rain” portrays Spain in the seventies. The costumes, the sunglasses, the typewriters, the street scenes look authentic. The attitude towards sex and relationship, I think that is pretty authentic as well. The filming looks old fashion and so is the music. And if you pay attention to the scene composition, time and time again, you would see a similar concept composed in different ways. For instance, the dropping of the kidney into the bucket and the dropping of the same actor who has his kidney removed into the swimming pool filmed from underneath the pool; the sister who comes out from the balcony and steps back into the shadow and then later, the brother who does the same – both linked by a similar emotion; the beginning scene with a flower and a car drives passes by and the ending scene with the same angle but different flower, and with the same car that passes by – if you are into this sort of details, you may find the film an art to admire. This dualism extends beyond scene composition. It works its way into the characters as well. A young boy’s hatred towards his porn star birth mother is in a relationship with a prostitute. Irony? Perhaps. But there is no coincidence.
Another worth noting observation is that the sex scenes are extremely artistic. Some of the scenes would have been really awkward to watch, borderline gross, but I think the filmmaker has managed to get the ideas across without turning the film into a pornography. And some sex scenes are extremely seductive. Just when I thought I have seen it all on big screens. (Note: Please don’t watch this film purely based on what this paragraph says.)
The flip side, on the other hand, is that the storyboarding of the scenes can be a bit random and the abstractly lengthy narration – artistic to some – may not sit well with the majority of the audience. The main story is straightforward. One young boy comes out of the hospital with one less kidney and the book “Divine Comedy” in his hand. He has decided to be a poet. One young girl whose passion is to dance and is willing to do whatever it takes to attain that dream. There are other friends of them whom each has a journey of his own to take. Together, their fates intertwine and a new destiny is weaved.
But is it only one destiny? To say more would be to give out the spoilers. So I shall end my write-up here and let you decide if “Summer Rain” is for you or not. It is a film with open interpretation. And I personally am not sure if many of you may find the pain of going through this 2 hours film justifies the joy of a potential interpretation – if there is one for you that is.
* * * SPOILERS BELOW * * *
If you notice, the narrator always seems a bit detached from the movie. He is physically in the story but he takes no part in how the story develops. Or does he? I think he ‘writes’ the story. And what you see is just one version of the story. Towards the end, as he says ‘another viewpoint’, the entire story is rewritten from the beginning. There is a different flower by the road. Subtle difference that may result in a different story.
Is the beginning scene how the story begins? Or is there a mixture of concepts here? Try to recall with me. There is an image of the ballet dancer in the operation room, with the young boy alone without the doctors. There is this young boy naked flying on top of the world looking so peaceful. This young boy wouldn’t have known this dancer prior to the operation, would he? I can only imagine that beyond the ending scene, he has been taken to the hospital after he is found sitting in a chair at the middle of the road the next morning unconscious. And he has died and gone to the netherworld. The opening scene could well be a mix of the opening and the end.
That brings up a good point here on Dante’s “Divine Comedy”. Inside Dante’s epic poem that he journeys through the three realms of the dead – Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, Beatrice is the ideal woman who guides him through Heaven. Although the reference to “Divine Comedy” is limited, I can’t help but to visualize that this group of friends together with the abstract narrator have journeyed through the similar and if the linkage is too far fetched, that could contribute to one of the major weaknesses of this film.