Theatrical Review: EVEN THE RAIN
Writer: Paul Laverty
Director: Icíar Bollaín
Cast: Gael García Bernal, Luis Tosar, Karra Elejalde
Making a piece of art about making a piece of art within the same medium is often a fool’s errand. Books about writing a book don’t often hold the reader’s attention, and the same goes for films based around the making of a film. However, as with any films that work with that concept as a basis (I’m looking at, you, films like ADAPTATION), one thing is the same. The narrative itself, while it may hinge on the act of creating this said piece of cinema, doesn't rely solely on it, in the way something like a mockumentary would.That’s what makes the latest film from director Iciar Bollain, EVEN THE RAIN, work so damn well.
EVEN THE RAIN follows a director and his cast and crew as they shoot a film about Christopher Columbus, while at the same time, locals try to stop their ruling government from privatizing the village's water supply. Cochabamba, Bolivia (and the now infamous Cochabamba Water Wars) plays backdrop to this story of eerie duality, as life appears to be, at least conceptually, imitating the art of this crew.
The Spanish submission for the Best Foreign Language Film at this past Oscar ceremony, the shortlist finalist EVEN THE RAIN stars a top tier cast that not only helped aid this film in garnering a massive 13 nominations at this year’s Goya Awards, but also helped make this film one that more than lives up to that gold-covered hype.
Best known for films like MATAHARIS, the actress-turned-filmmaker is a filmmaker who gives you the best of both worlds. A fantastic visual filmmaker, RAIN features a cavalcade of wonderfully framed shots, allowing the action on screen (both movement and performance wise) truly sink in for the viewer. The narrative itself is very much an ambitious piece of filmmaking, drawing on various influences, but becoming something wholly its own thanks to Bollain’s filmmaking. She is able to take on this very meta narrative, ranging from the surface level film-within-a-film story to the deeper blurring of life and art, and allows all of it to breathe, without any superfluous winking to the viewer. Very much a stylized neo-neo-realist film in the vein of something like a Ramin Bahrani film, EVEN THE RAIN is a wonderfully visual look at a crisis of art and political unrest.
However, Bolain is also a fantastic director of performances and performers. The film stars Gael Garcia Bernal, Luis Tosar, Karra Elejalde, Cassandra Ciangherotti, and Raul Arevalo, all of whom give more than wonderful performances. Tosar plays Costa, the creative counter-part to the filmmaker Sebastian, played by Bernal, and the two play perfectly off one another. Costa is a much more reserved man, and Tosar embodies this perfectly by allowing his face to tell most of his character’s story. Simple glances, smiles, or long drawn-out looks tell his story, and Tosar is able to perfectly embody this quiet and calm persona.
Then there is his opposite, Sebastian. Bernal plays the filmmaker here, and is just another glance into the inspiration that was drawn from director Werner Herzog and his many features, particular FITZCARALDO, which the film’s official site goes as far as to mention itself. However, this film is much more Herzogian than just mentioning a film as a piece of inspiration. EVEN THE RAIN is very much a neo-extension of many of Herzog's films, in both narrative subject and its themes being discussed.
Bernal, our Herzog-like figure in many ways (just sans the undiagnosed comic insanity), is willing to do just about anything, be it begging native women to act out the drowning of children, or put his cast and crew in life-threatening situations, to get his shot. He gives the film a great sense of energy, both visually in his performance, but also narratively in what his character brings out of his counterparts, that makes an otherwise stately little film a great sense of narrative push.
However, not all is well with regards to this film. As a whole, the film’s structure is not truly all that inventive, and the film’s screenplay doesn’t help. It follows very much a routine style narrative, that only truly works when the dichotomy between the film-within-the-film and the actual real world is shown. There is so much going on here thematically, that what it says about oppression and how history continually repeats itself, ultimately saves the otherwise really straightforward and simplistic screenplay. The film is also a tad bit overlong and poorly paced, so while the performances and direction are absolutely superb, they must ultimately save an otherwise paint by numbers narrative, with some very intriguing themes being worked out her.
Overall, EVEN THE RAIN is a film unlike anything you’ll find at your cineplex. A performance piece, RAIN is a glimpse into a world, and a crisis, that as this film points out, is not wholly new. A film fueled by great performances and even better filmmaking from one of today’s best filmmakers, Iciar Bollain is truly EVEN THE RAIN’s star, but allows the spotlight to be shined on her more than capable cast, and a narrative that may not be groundbreaking, but will leave you thinking. We would be a better world if that fact were true for more films.
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