wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)
In an interview with Woody Allen about the film, the interviewer asks him if, after trying to explore relationships in most of his films, he has found an answer. Allen replies, “I haven’t found any answers that you would want to hear”. The answer is more apt to the film than his personal life, where it doesn’t matter what you draw out of your experience of meeting a certain individual or indulging in an event/situation. What matters is how you chose to go about the experience and whether you could milk the most out of it before jumping to an “informed conclusion”. As a film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona does exactly that.Read more
Has it ever happened that you overhear a strange conversation, and somehow even though it defies every sense of logic, the words make absolute sense to you? For example, “We are meant for each other and not meant for each other. It’s a contradiction”. I know you understand that line – and Woody Allen knows it too. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is one such film that helps us understand that we are not alone in our chasms of strange thought.
As the Woody Allen norm goes, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a character heavy-film. It stands apart from his regular treatment of films, however, because the mood and tone is not portrayed with neurotic dialogues but with scenic surroundings that lend its flavour to the spirit of the film. In this film, Allen has used Barcelona and the Spanish country-side as an additional character, lending its own perspective.
The film begins with two friends, Vicky and Cristina, who are on a holiday in Barcelona. They are complete opposites – while Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is disciplined and organized, Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) is more the free-spirit. On a whim, they decide to take upon Juan Antonio’s (Javier Bardem, who plays a local painter) offer of joining him on a weekend of self-indulgence (wine, conversation and hours of going-with-the-flow).
Through their journey and interactions, we see their extravagances and their restraints, their discoveries and their ignorance. All come into being through a concoction of mood-setting (lighting and landscape cinematography), performances that depend more on gaze and facial expression than dialogue and that beautiful flamenco background music that gives a sense of freedom. A free-spirit that Allen as the director has allowed the characters to experience through the film.
The film picks pace with the entry of Juan Antonio’s ex-wife Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz). Maria Elena as a character is a bit of a contradiction – she’s easily the most neurotic of the lot, and yet her silence conveys much more than her words. There is a scene in the film, taken from a top angle, which shows her furiously working on a canvas, wearing a torn piece of cloth to cover her. She moves from one stroke to another with absolute silent passion. To me, that scene describes her character best, and makes it apparent that by virtue of mere presence, she’s the star of the film.
The film’s high point is in its interactions; be it a singular character’s interactions with the city and its visuals, their interactions with art or photography, or their interactions with one another. Each one lends a different perspective to you as a viewer and Allen knows exactly when to include words/dialogue to seal the scene – like a perfect package that leaves an ever-lasting imprint in your head.
The DVD of Vicky Cristina Barcelona doesn’t have any extras, but I can tell you that you don’t need any. Calling it a sensual film that explores the various possibilities of the visual medium would be an understatement. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is plays out on itself – it’s a film that has its own education, where the characters indulge, discover, learn and portray. Surely you’d want to be a part of such an education.
This review is by guest reviewer Swetha Ramakrishnan. Swetha Ramakrishnan is currently living and working in Mumbai. She's a self-confessed film enthusiast and can most likely be found talking to anyone and everyone about popular cinema and her love for SRK. Swetha Ramakrishnan also blogs at http://swetharamakrishnan.blogspot.com/.
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