“Petra” intolerable cruelty

“Petra” intolerable crueltyPresented by the Directors’

Fortnight of the past Cannes Festival as “the best film by Jaime Rosales that shows an image of Spain and Catalonia unpublished” , was the director of the section, Edouard Waintrop, who did not hesitate to say that ” Petra “ is a film that deserved to be presented in the Official Section. Words that one can only subscribe after experiencing it. We will see what the Goya say but a server already puts his hand on the fire that will be among the main protagonists. At the moment, one of our most outstanding national titles of the year arrives today to our billboard. Let’s celebrate it 

What is it?

Petra is the protagonist’s own name, someone who, after the death of his mother, begins the search for a father whose identity has been hidden from him throughout his life and all the paths seem to lead him towards a ruthless and powerful man. Fate, determined to impose its cruel logic, will take Petra to the limit of her inner strength.

Who’s behind?

According to Jaime Rosales himself , “Petra is a film that was born out of the need to meet the spectator” . His first two films, both “La Soledad” (2007) as “The hours of the day” (2003), were released in the first decade of the new millennium. Two works that despite their austere harshness, and with permission of “Tiro en la Cabeza” (2008) were framed in times full of enthusiasm, just before the great crisis of the second decade. “Dream and Silence” (2012) instead, he had something of swan song for him. A film with which he closed a stage to open a new one that precisely, takes him to the starting point. Both “Hermosa juventud” (2016) and now “Petra” (2018), represent another step in this new direction.

Who goes out?

“Petra” is a stoic Bárbara Lennie , who is accompanied, among others, by Àlex Brendemühl , with whom Rosales returns to work 15 years after “Las horas del día” , or Marisa Paredes . However, the true and unexpected protagonist is none other than the debutante and non-professional actor, Joan Botey . We speak of a chemical engineer and agronomist who has published a book on biodiversity in which he incorporates watercolor drawings made by himself. He is the most despicable villain that we will surely find on the big screen throughout this 2018. Even Thanos does not reach the sole of his shoes.

What is it?

The great Spanish tragedy, the great Catalan tragedy. Both one and the other.

What does it offer?

The best Rosales film to date is a spiral of malice, family secrets and violence that takes his characters to the limit of life. “Petra” is a work of multidirectional discourse that, starting from the family spectrum, embraces the political and social sphere of Spain, as well as of Catalonia. That is, what would become a melodrama of the most bloody transformed into the stark radiography of the historical conflict that lives a whole territory.

If there is a stigma that oozes our burdened country, that is the forced recovery of our historical memory. Carpets that are not interested in raising people in the upper echelons, basically because what can be discovered can hardly sustain the curriculum of a truly retrograde but supposedly prosperous nation. Well, exhuming the past in search of answers is precisely what propels the stark journey in which Petra embarks. Finding the father he never knew, or even knowing about him, is the key that opens Pandora’s box. It is no coincidence that his mother has always refused outright or even to talk about it. Precisely as Spain does with its own past, an atrocious past marked by the devastating and inhuman dictatorship of Franco. Memory versus oblivion. Good versus evil. Some people try to take it, there are those who want to hide it. More than anything because there would be no where to hold it. And this is precisely what happens in “Petra”. The erosion.

In fact, revealing her father’s identity is probably the only wish her mother has ever denied Petra. It has been his way of protecting her, basically because of the monster that turns out to be his father. A vile and despicable, mean and dehumanized to the greatest extent. In other words, the personification of what a dictator is. A well-known Catalan artist, bourgeois and very well-off that exploits to its maximum consequences the commodification of art and, consequently, the dark side of the power of money. It is the definitive encounter between Petra and her biological father, Jaume, that causes the chain of a series of tragic and extremely twisted consequences. Characters whose contained anger, whose family repression and ultimately existential, leads directly to chaos, to commit irreversible acts from an uncontrollable and violent visceral scourge. That Petra is from Madrid and her Catalan father, that their relationship is impossible beyond having been non-existent and, above all, that their encounter, their clash, provoke hatred and devastation, are factors, multiple layers to be transposed, that depending on the viewer, will come to the allegorical heart of his speech, or not.   Because “Petra” is a movie (in) human, yes, but above all social. Discursive and conceptual virtues that together with the formal risk that his transgressive narrative proposal entails make it a work of deep significance at all levels.

That the intertitle that presents each one of the chapters by which “Petra” is divided ahead of us the key action that will happen in it, is a maneuver as apparently reckless as undoubtedly coherent. Facing them with the main information already, is what allows us to focus and be attentive to everything that surrounds and what this action really means. The constant and slow sweeps between the distance that separates its protagonists in full conversation, or the use of characters speaking outside the field, are other praiseworthy formal resources that move us to the extreme degree of distance between them. Among people, also among cultures and ultimately, territories. With all this, and despite the pessimism that surrounds the entire film, Jaime Rosales suggests the possible path to redemption and the desired reconciliation. There is light at the end of the tunnel. The problem lies in knowing how to travel and, above all, hit the key and be able to press it to achieve atonement.

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