At the end of last year, ‘El Agua’, the first film by Elena López Riera, premiered. Despite the fact that he barely scratched a couple of nominations for the 2023 Goya Awards, it is a stimulating vision of rural Spain and finally it can be seen in streaming through Filmin.
Take the water inside
In a town in Alicante threatened with the river overflowing, there is a legend about women destined to disappear with each flood because they carry “the water inside”. She believes that she seems attached to Ana, a teenager who lives with her mother and her grandmother, whom the rest of the town have always looked at with bad eyes.
‘El agua’ is the first feature film by Elena López Riera. It was screened in the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 2022 and was quietly released in Spanish theaters on November 4. At this year’s Goyas, the film opted for the categories Best New Director and Best New Actress.
In recent years, we have had film debuts by Spanish directors who they brought us closer to their vision of reality from a very everyday approach: Carla Simón with ‘Summer 1993’, Belén Funes with ‘La hija de un ladrón’, Elena Martín with ‘Júlia ist’ or Celia Rico with ‘Journey to a mother’s room’.
Elena López Riera also opts for a naturalist approach to get closer to the life of this adolescent and her environment. From its first chords you breathe truth in Ana’s conversations with her friends and, at the same time, it is perceived that there is something else in the environment.
That is one of the main contributions of the film: magical realism. Everyday moments are intermingled with folklore of the town and all their beliefs around water. Water as a force of nature but also as a kind of mystical entity, capable of reclaiming “what is its own” in a cyclical way.
López Riera’s approach is fresh and originalby intertwining mystical elements with other practically documentary ones, such as the declarations of the town’s neighbors who tell different stories about water and those girls who “carry the water inside” throughout the film.
The history It has touches of coming of agewith that first love and the complex relationship between Ana and her mother, and at the same time reflects on the representation of women as a passive figure in traditional narratives and how it has evolved as new voices have risen to tell their own stories.
The pace of the film is leisurely and manages to create a very particular atmosphere.. If you let yourself be enveloped by it, it drags you into its compendium of traditional images that crack when the water makes an appearance. On the contrary, if you don’t enter it is easy for it to become tedious and you stay waiting for something that is not going to arrive.
moon pamies, winner of the Berlanga Award for Best Leading Actress for this role, is the great discovery of the film. Her interpretation is very natural and at the same time reflects the ambiguities of a character whose it is not easy to know what is going through his head. Barbara Lennie, Snow of Medina and alberto olmo complete the cast.
‘Water’ is a risky film debut that combines costumbrismo with magical realism and immerse the viewer in a hypnotic atmosphere. An interesting look at the traditional folklore of rural Spain that is finally available for streaming.