El alma de las moscas (The Soul of Flies), 2010.
Written and Directed by Jonathan Cenzual Burley.
Starring Jonathan Cenzual Burley, Andrea Calabrese and Feliz Cenzua.
Two brothers who have never met are brought together by their father who they never knew. On their way to his funeral, a mysterious road movie intertwined with dream and fantasy gradually unfolds…
‘Quirky’ can be an ugly word in cinema. Conjuring up notions of irony loaded, rapid and vapid urban conversations, it calls to mind a certain type of indie-filmmaking. It could be a personal dislike, but the adjective describes to this mind a particular jaded approach that is all too often a byword for the banal.
So let it be known from the start that writer/director Jonathan Cenzual Burley’s truly impressive debut does not suffer from the ‘quirk’ problem. It is a beautiful and surreal tall tale; absurd and romantic (in its truest sense) and unencumbered by traditional ideas of storytelling. It is a feast for the senses, and a film that is a joy to discover and to share in.
Following the death of the father they have never met (Feliz Cenzual), Miguel (Javier Sáez) and his equally unknown to him brother Nero (Andrea Calabrese) embark on a trip through central Spain to his funeral. Along the way they meet an assortment of odd characters who punctuate the trip – and the magical 79minute running time – with an assortment of strange lives and fantastic stories.
These denizens of Burley’s (who also appears in the film and provides the narrative voice) brilliantly captured magical realist film include a suicidal narcoleptic, a group of thieving musicians and the girl – quite literally – of Nero’s dreams.
The title of the film refers to a belief – incredibly expressed by the young men’s dead father – that all animals, however small, have a soul (or alma, from the Latin anima). This kind of philosophical food for thought is bandied around the script generously, with an effortless skill that captivates and hypnotises.
Life affirming and innocent without any extraneous material, El alma de las moscas is a wonderfully original film perfectly able to restore some faith in innovative filmmaking and storytelling. A subtly profound script hints at philosophical depths that do not need to be shouted at the audience – the whole has a wonderful innocence that draws the viewer firmly into its fable.
Filmed in Salamanca, much of the film’s breathtaking beauty is in the scenery and colour of Western Spain. Dusty road tracks, azure skies and the ever present sun are shot (also by Cenzual Burley) with real verve and panache. A remarkable film, El alma de las moscas, is a dream of a picture made real and Cenzual Burley is clearly a filmmaker to watch.
Extras: A making-of and outtakes capture something of the surreal party atmosphere of the production. In keeping with the fairy-tale aspect of the feature, ‘recording the soundtrack’ features the haunting theme song being played in a residential garden as a curious neighbour looks on.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.