'Wound Screen' ('La pantalla herida'): Film Review

Centuria Films
A useful and thought-provoking, if downbeat, summary of the woes currently afflicting Spanish cinema, courtesy of the people who make it.

An insiders’ X-ray of the current state of Spanish cinema.

As its puzzling English title suggests, Wound Screen (the literal translation is The Wounded Screen, which is more to the point) is not in the main a joyful celebration of Spanish cinema, but rather a sobering study of its ills. Director Luis Maria Ferrandez has gathered together a group of men and women (mainly the former), ranging from double Oscar-winning production designer Gil Parrondo, down to film student Raquel Marin: In between there are actors and directors of higher and lower profile, and men and women in suits. Most of the arguments will be familiar to Spanish cinemagoers, but for anyone elsewhere looking for a shorthand guide to the zeitgeist, Wound Screen is invaluable, if sobering, viewing.

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One of the paradoxes of Spanish cinema is that an industry based on the moving image has marketed itself so badly to its own people. There are complaints from the many interviewees—often grouped together in a circle while the camera moves busily among them—about how Spain is a country that doesn’t look after its talent, and debate about this perennial disconnect between Spanish cinema and the Spanish public: A common complaint by Spaniards about Spanish movies is that they're all about the Civil War (which is statistically untrue). The oft-heard phrase “I don’t see Spanish cinema because I don’t like it” is questioned by Enrique Gonzalez-Macho, the president of the Spanish Film Academy, because it’s not possible to dislike something you haven’t seen.

A depressingly lengthy amount of screen time is also devoted to comments about Spanish film financing, and the subsidy system. The non-Spanish viewer will probably wish that longer could be spent on what the movies are actually about, but then again such issues are crucial to the debate.

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In a nutshell, the message is that Spanish film is on a creative high, which has annoyingly collided with a financial low. One speaker goes so far as to say that the maltreatment of Spanish cinema, largely in the form of reduced funding, is a punishment by the Spanish establishment, a view which may have a grain of truth in it, given the highly politicized nature of Spanish culture and the industry’s recent financial mistreatment at the hands of the country’s ruling Popular Party.

The comments come thick and fast, and are frustratingly more focused on the political and financial than on the artistic. Most of them are from middle-aged men—women and younger filmmakers are at a premium in Wound Screen, but most of them are also justified, adding up to a microcosmic view of the country’s view of itself.

On this evidence, Spain is certainly a country that enjoys a good grumble. The Spanish film industry is ill, and always has been; Spain doesn’t look after its talent, filmic or otherwise; with all the screens in people’s lives, they no longer need to go to the cinema; shockingly, some distributors (unnamed) buy tickets for their own films so as to artificially inflate viewer numbers and so claim subsidies  At a certain point, the viewer starts to feel the lack positive ideas for the future and wants to shout “Stop whining! Get up and do something!” But the whole point of the film is that it ain't that easy.

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The interviews are interspersed with wittily appropriate sample excerpts from a range of Spanish films, including local classics such as Berlanga’s Placido and Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible. One of the interviewees is Sandra Hermida, producer of the latter, and as such someone who seems to have discovered the magic commercial formula that few of the other interviewees have.

Perhaps the most upsetting thing about Wound Screen is that the most upbeat moments come from a 92-year-old man, the Oscar-winning art director Parrondo, whose recollections of a life in film provide a refreshingly idealistic counterpoint to all the grim realism elsewhere. One speaker points out that the internationally renowned Spanish producer Elias Querejeta ended his career broke, a melancholy reflection that captures the essential spirit of this essentially melancholy film.

Production companies: Centuria Films, Producciones Embrujadas
Director, screenwriter: Luis Maria Ferrandez
Producer(s): Carlos Barrero, Belen Bernuy, Ferrandez, Gloria Bretones
Director of photography: Luis Angel Perez
Editor(s): Adoracion G. Elipe, Jose Manuel Jimenez
Music: Jose Sanchez Sanz
No rating, 86 minutes

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