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Saturday, 21 September 2013

Redemptive washing

This is a Festival review of La redempció dels peixos (The Redemption of the Fish) (2013)

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21 September

This is a Festival review of La redempció dels peixos (The Redemption of the Fish) (2013)

The Redemption of the Fish (La redempció dels peixos) (2013)* had its UK premiere at the Festival to-night. As we learnt afterwards, it was filmed on almost no budget and was really only achievable because director Jordi Torrent (who was with us for a Q&A, along with lead actor Miquel Quer) has friends in Venice, where all the filming took place : avoiding the popular locations, and unbelievably having a three-week shoot in August, it did what was needed, but with a change of wind-direction and temperature that adorned the very final scene.

The film is stunning, not just because Venice is a glorious city, but because Torrent gave it the space to breathe and be itself, without the picture-postcard mentality that others might have brought to making a film there. It does not matter whether one's view is that Venice was the actor at the heart of this film, it fed the action, and the action subsisted so naturally there. I say that, because Venice is one of my loves, but the heart of the film is how it shows contemporary relationships and communication in this centuries-old place.

Quer (Marc) has gone to Venice from Barcelona for reasons that only became apparent with time, and, as he tries to follow a man when he closes a bookshop and leaves, he loses him in the confusion that is this city (and which twice, on a first visit there, caused me to stray into the Naval Dockyards and meet men with guns). (Here, there are hints of Don't Look Now (1973).) They had last seen each other when Marc was nearly two, because Paco, the other man, is his father.

An inner core of others who are connected with Paco peoples Marc's time there, and he comes into association with them, thinking (or maybe wanting to think) that there is a meaningful link between each of them and him. One tells him to look at how The Grand Canal divides the city into two fish, one of which is trying to eat the other - he is reminded that he used to say the opposite, or that he said that the fish represent other things, but he says that the Fish of Science is gobbling up the Fish of Ethics. Beautiful shots of the water, with buildings coming in and out of flux, had prefaced all of this, and, as Venice is La Serenissima and married to the sea, it had been a delight to realize that this unattainable, unmasterable place was our setting.

Saying little more about what happens or why, the film is a cinematic joy for its acting and for how it has been made (all, we were told, with available light, and a light crew of five or six) - Paco seems not to trust Marc or his motives, and maybe we do not like the feeling that Marc is on a mission at the behest of his grandmother and reporting back to her and to his girlfriend, but we grow out of relying on one, and into what brings Marc to find his father.

This represents the present high-point this year, and I hope to make it to the repeat screening at 10.45 a.m. on Sunday 29th September (the closing day of the Festival).


* As an English title, it feels cumbersome, because is the fish what is redeemed, or is it what carries out the redemption ? Maybe that ambiguity is fecund, but I wonder whether something else might do better :

The Fish Swallows Whole, or

Venice the Redeemer

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)  

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