Maybe the passion for bullfighting, but only maybe. Where one saw the beauty of drama in its purest form (“…where the Spaniard sheds his best tears and his best bile”); the other preferred to feel the attraction of naked risk, the sensation of death’s abyssal and dark force. Lorca on one side and Hemingway on the other. What can unite two of the writers who defined the 20th century? Perhaps a possible answer, and a very brilliant one at that, is found in the penultimate film of Paula Ortiz On the other side of the river and among the trees, which arrives on the billboard after a long and unjustified wait and does so almost at the same time as Teresa (this is the most recent) is presented at the Seminci in Valladolid imminently.
«When they called me to direct the film, they told me that they were looking for a young look and a feminine approach. And that they thought of me for my previous work on Lorca [La novia, 2015]”says Ortiz to explain the rarity, well that’s what it is, of seeing himself in charge of an American production starring Liev Schreiber and shot in Venice in black and white with a strange and unctuous lyricism that equally refers to the most classic cinema as to the deepest dream.
The director says that at first she was quite afraid to very much and even gave up the offer. For rare. But then she thought about it and it was precisely her extravagance that made him decide, and with enthusiasm, too. «The challenge was exciting. How to approach the universe of someone who is at the top of the male canon and who is nothing like me? The themes that make up his literature – bullfighting, boxing, alcohol or women – not only do not interest me, but they are even abhorrent to me. Not only do I not share some of the arguments that organize his life, but I am avowedly against it. But, on the other hand, He is undoubtedly the great chronicler of the 20th century, the protagonist of the anti-fascist struggle. His way of telling, with the technique of the iceberg under which a whole mountain of pain is hidden, is antagonistic to mine… », he says and in the ellipsis he leaves the feeling of the inevitable. He had to happen and he did.
The film, in fact, adapts one of the author’s latest novels and does so with great awareness of the decline and the abyss that it faces. Just after World War II, an American Army officer is faced with the news of his death. He suffers from a terminal illness that his heart is unable to cope with. But that death is nothing more than the announcement of others that came before and the harbinger of those that will come later. What remains of his life will be spent in the company of a young woman (Matilda de Angelis). And there at the crossroads of an existence that ends and another existence that begins, face to face, two lives confront and restore each other. Across the river and among the trees It is a profound film that breathes the calm of knowing oneself at the limit of each and every one of its contradictions; of knowing oneself alive on the very brink of all deaths; to offer itself as an exercise in new cinema, very conscious of the rigor of the oldest cinema typical of the 40s with dialogues carved with chisels.
«Actually», Ortiz takes the word again, «my position in the film is similar to that of the characters themselves. Everything is as strange as it is, in its own way, coherent. Throughout the entire process, Hemingway has spit in my face, confronted me, and reinstated me. Ortiz says that, and hence its interest, the novel itself has something of a refutation from the author himself. «The text reflects a moment in his life that was already in decline or decadence. He wonders if all the struggles have been worth it…he questions himself…».