Account and recognize Paco Plaza that as an individual educated in Catholicism, the level of demand is high. “We are asked to have faith in strange phenomena such as that the wine is truly blood and the bread, flesh. Blood and flesh of Christ. We are even required to believe in the resurrection of the dead and the immaculate conception of Mary. Everything is so connected to the supernatural that, in truth, it is fascinating.” He says all this on account of ‘Sister Death’ that, far from being a catechism program, it is a film; a film locked in a convent that travels back in time much further than ‘Veronica‘, of which it is an antecedent or, in modern pleonasmic language, a prequel. If the story of possessions released in 2017 was set in a Spain in Transition where Los Héroes del Silencio was playing at full volume, now we are in the middle of the post-war period, at the end of the 40s, and what is told is the story by mysterious force of the blind and old nun who forever changed the destiny of the protagonist at that time. The actress who was then Consuelo Trujillo is now a young performer, not exactly a debutante, who goes by the name Aria Bedmar.
Well then, ‘Sister Death’ was in charge of opening the Sitges Festival with all honors on Thursday. It’s a movie, we said, and it’s a ritual; It is terror and it is Eucharist; It is pure pleasure for lovers of fear and, if necessary, it may fall into the category of sin. Not necessarily mortal, but a sin nonetheless. Amen.
“I wanted,” explains the director with a condescending and passionate gesture, “to make a ghost film more linked to Jack Clayton or the Hammer production company. The idea was to achieve a more contemporary atmosphere despite taking place further in time than ‘Veronica‘. That was a period film that appealed to a nostalgia that we recognize. We recognize the Bunbury group and the walkmans and the adverts on TV. The idea was to appeal to an active viewer. Now, the film is more of an excavation into memory. At the end of the day, period productions always have some fantastic cinema, they always base you on something to reconstruct little more than a ghost. For this film we used Carlos Saura’s portraits from the 50s. We see a Spain in black and white that determined that everything exhibited in ‘Sister death‘whether it’s black or white.’ And here, Plaza stops.
Indeed, there are few films so in love with light, so attentive to pure white as ‘Sister death. It is a color film, so no one should be confused, but it is above all because of its effort to make the colors come together and cake together until they achieve the texture of snow itself. It is light, but as tactile and dense as that of Sorolla’s paintings. Plaza being Valencian and the film having been shot in Gandía, everything fits. As the director himself reasons, the film flees from the gothic and motley characterization that one presupposes in a convent to, just the opposite, idealize clarity to the point of paroxysm which, why not, is also fanaticism. One of the first images matches the white habits of the nuns with the whitewash on the wall and on it the deeply black holes of pure blackness from bullets from the war, the Civil War. Without a doubt, one of the sequences of the year.
The starting point of the film, and this is determined by the first images, are the Marian apparitions of Garabandal, that four girls from the town of San Sebastián de Garabandal, located in the municipality of Rionansa in Cantabria, suffered between 1961 and 1965. “Of all the apparitions, these are my favorites. The photographs from the time with the girls with their necks turned up and walking backwards are fascinating. They are my favorite psychics,” notes the director with a spirit that is more anthropological than devout. The story, that of the film, tells of the arrival at a convent of a teenager who was previously a holy girl. He faces the decision of his life. And in that moment, she hesitates. Did he really see the virgin or was she simply used by an entire town? Did the miracle that everyone says it happened really happen or was it all the result of excited childish imagination? “The border between reality and fiction is very blurred in a 7 or 8 year old girl. It is very common in testimonies of paranormal events that the attention that the protagonists receive ends up being addictive,” Plaza reasons.