Den Spanske Ravn
I am not a fan of dubbing. I am convinced that the audio elements are as important as the visual elements in a movie and dubbing robs the audience of that vital dimension to replace it with an unoriginal foreign element. I prefer subtitles any day to dubbing.
My copy of “Cria Cuervos” is a beautiful blue-ray disc, but without subtitles. Instead dubbed versions in four different languages has been added. As I do not understand Spanish I am therefore forced to listen to the English dubbing. From time to time, I switched back to the Spanish version simply to enjoy the sound, the background effects and the beautiful voices of the actors. I even understand that there are accents in their voices that have importance to understanding some of the motivations of the characters, but totally lost in the dubbing. Man, I hate dubbing.
Anyway, even without original sound “Cria Cuervos” is a beautiful movie, featuring the darling Ana Torrent as one of three orphaned children. Unfortunately, a lot of the finer points of the movie was lost on me and I did not really understand what the movie wanted and that made it a somewhat empty experience. By comparison I found “The Spirit of the Beehive” a far stronger movie, although they are supposed to touch on similar issues.
In the opening scenes, Ana’s (Ana Torrent) father, Anselmo is found dead in bed by Ana. She thinks she killed him by mixing poison (baking soda) into his milk, but she is quite calm about it. We see Ana’s mother in flashbacks and Ana as an adult talking about her childhood, both played by Geraldine Chaplin. In Ana’s eyes, her mother died of an illness caused by her father’s philandering. Now Ana is left with her two sisters, Irene and Maite, the maid, Rosa and hear aunt, Paulina who has assumed guardianship. Ana’s thoughts seem to center on death and her being the one who inflict it. Her guinea pig dies, she offers to kill her mute and sad grandmother and she attempts to kill her aunt with her baking soda. It never appears to be from malice, more like she has the ability and duty to inflict it.
There is supposed to be a lot of allusions to the end of the Franco regime in Spain, but I cannot work out how that ties in with the little angel of death. The closest thing is that young Spain should shed the oppression of the parent generation, but this interpretation does not feel satisfying and without that, the story of Ana lacks some direction.
Beside that, these are three darling children, and it is difficult not to fall in love with them and their childish view on things. There is a recurrent theme, the song “Porque te vas” by Jeanette, which matches these girls very well. It is catchy, infectious, but also melancholic and I have been humming it ever since (there is a good rendition on Youtube).
I wish I had gotten more out of the movie. It won a number of prizes and was one of the most popular Spanish movies outside of Spain in the seventies, and you do not get that sort of success through a quiet movie about three children, so I am clearly missing a lot here. I blame dubbing, but likely I am just not smart enough.
Still, if only for Ana Torrent, it is a recommendation from me.