|Is this beautiful young child capable of murder?|
Conceived, written and directed by Carlos Saura, who was considered one of Spain’s great opponent’s of the Franco regime, Cria cuerios (1976) can be seen as a parable of the downfall of the Dictator and how a sense of freedom came about during the final days of his fascist regime. The story centers on an upper class Spanish family who live in a very large house in central Madrid surrounded by a high walled garden. The main character is 8 year old Ana and when the film opens we witness her father in bed with his beautiful mistress Amelia (Mirta Miller), but before he can fulfill the main reason he’s there he suffers a heart attack and dies. Ana believes she has succeeded in poisoning her cold authoritarian father (Héctor Alterio), a high-ranking military man whom she blames for the death of her much-adored mother whom he ill-treated and was continually unfaithful to. Now being brought up, along with her two sisters, by her sour faced Aunt Paulina (Mónica Randall) her only friend and confidant is the family maid Rosa (Florinda Chico). With little guidance and supervision, the children retreat into an insular world of their own.
|The dying Mother.|
A very effective drama beautifully told and photographed from a child’s viewpoint giving the finished product a somewhat hauntingly fantasied feel. The character of Ana, who is the one that really suffers in this deeply affecting portrait of innocence, death and grief, is played as the 8 year old by Ana Torrent previously seen in The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) another Spanish film that focuses on a young girl who has a fascination with the 1931 American movie Frankenstein. It’s her beautiful but melancholy looks that seem to portray the hope and fear of an approaching new political era in Spanish politics. She really was a gifted young actress, seen later in her career acting along side Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson in The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). When asked to describe the nature of Ana's suffering, the director, Carlos Saura replied: Cria cuervos is a sad film, yes. But that's part of my belief that childhood is one of the most terrible parts in the life of a human being. What I'm trying to say is that at that age you've no idea where it is you are going, only that people are taking you somewhere, leading you, pulling you and you are frightened. You don't know where you're going or whom you are or what you are going to do. It's a time of terrible indecision. Geraldine Chapman, who was Saura’s common law wife for twelve years, plays dual roles: Ana’s mother and Ana as a young woman.
Released at a time when Spain was just coming out of 40 years of Fascist rule the film was nominated for a Golden Globe and it deservedly won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 1977. Interestingly the title means ‘raise ravens’ from the Spanish proverb "Raise ravens, and they will pluck out your eyes", and alludes to a child's irrational compulsion for vengeance and self-destruction.