My favourite Spanish film is undoubtedly Spirit of the Beehive. Director Víctor Erice created a spellbinding tale about the inner life of a seven-year-old girl living in rural Spain. The film tackles themes of family, the civil war and disconnection. Ten years later, he returned with his next film, El Sur. An adaptation of a short story by Adelaida García Morales, it explores similar themes, and in many ways feels like a natural progression.
Eight-year-old Estrella (Sonsoles Aranguren) is enchanted by her charismatic and mysterious doctor father (Omero Antonutti). He is by turns taciturn and distant. One day she finds the name of a little-known actress scrawled on a piece of paper. Later, she discovers him at the cinema watching a film which she’s starring in. This fuels Estrella’s imagination as she wonders who her father really loves and what happened to him in the South during the Civil War.
Initially Erice planned El Sur to be a three-hour film, but producer Elías Querejeta had other ideas. What we are left with is ninety minutes of studied mystery. Whilst we never get to see what Estrella finds in the South, this only adds to the dreamlike intrigue. Victor Erice cements his place as one of the Spanish greats with El Sur, creating another spellbindingly beautiful film which is full of innocence, wonder and the fantastical ordinary.
- Haunted Memory: The Cinema of Víctor Erice (Adrian Martin, Cristina Álvarez López, 2016, 13 mins): a video essay celebrating the great Spanish director
- Víctor Erice interviewed by Geoff Andrew (UK, 2003, 83 mins, audio only)
- Theatrical re-release trailer (2016)
- Fully illustrated booklet featuring essays by Geoff Andrew and Mar Diestro-Dópido and full film credits
El Sur is released on Dual Format DVD and Blu-Ray by the BFI on Monday.