Carlos Saura has outdone himself with the film Cria. He brings to the screen, a story of a pre-adolescent girl haunted by her past and defiant to her future. This film oscillates between dream and reality, present and past, even time and space, and in so doing carries us along into the world of Ana. Ana is a 9-year girl that has lost her mother to cancer and as the film opens she witnesses her father’s death.
The story begins with the death of Ana’s father. He dies while making love to the wife of his best friend.’ Ana awakes to hear the exchange and witness his illicit lover’s hasty departure from the home. From this powerful opening scene, we see the world as Ana does--through dreams and daydreams of her long-suffering mother. The story moves between reality and fantasy like a cinematic quilt. In one scene she recalls the cruelty of her deceased father toward his faithful wife. The warm daughter-to-mother relationship Ana carries on with an apparition of her mother, guides the film throughout. Ana's rejection of her father and aunt are understood through the spiritual presence of Ana's mother. Ana is subject to extraordinary psychic encounters with deceased persons, yet she remains outwardly a nine-year-old child.In fact, Saura handles the ghost appearances so artfully, the viewer is never quite sure, if Ana is dreaming up the ghosts or actually experiencing the supernatural. Regardless of the truth, Ana’s knowledge of her father’s adultery, fuels resentment towards his memory and his illicit lover, Amelia.
Ana's actions are the result of her interaction with her deceased mother, still she remains well-adjusted to the real world. She has two sisters, with whom she shares her secret knowledge of the their father's unfaithfulness. It is this mixture of the ordinary with the extraordinary that makes Cria such a capitivating film. Just imagine if you lived in a world in which you were regularly visited by ghosts from your past. A disquieting thought to say the least. Now, imagine carrying on your life with normally and you will have envisioned the structure of this film.Ana has an empathic relationship with her mute grandmother. Is the grandmother meant to be a message to Ana of what will become of her? The grandmother sees and lives in the past. She is shunted away and ignored by virtually all the members of the household, except Ana. She has knowledge of other times and places but cannot express it.Watching the treatment of the grandmother made me feel pity. I felt her loneliness and isolation. I could see her resignation to being an invalid, trapped and dependent on others for her remaining years. I wanted to somehow free her from this deplorable existence. In many ways, she is like Ana: misunderstood by all, self-indulged in a world only she sees and hears through old long-playing records. Ana senses the curious similarities in their predicaments and attempts to forge a bond of sorts with her, though it ultimately fails.
Cria is definitely a point-of-view film, told from Ana's perspective. But, it is not traditional in any other respect. There is no defined plot that is resolved at the film's conclusion. Ana cannot be said to be a protagonist, set against the domineering Aunt. The story is more a look through Ana’s eyes at the world she inhabits. What Ana sees and feels, we see and feel. These perceptions and emotions are presented in one holiday week of a wealthy Spanish family in Madrid. What it leaves us with is a deep feeling for Ana, the child. For those of us, whom have lost parents, like myself, it’s a feeling of empathy, for others it might be pathos for the child that can’t let go of her mother, but for all it is a stirring tale.
Another film by Saura entitled,El Jardin De Las Delicias. This time the theme is somber. The technique is experimental and the effect is engrossing to the viewer. Saura you're a genius!
Robleh Wais 8/7/2001