El agua [The Water] (2022)

El agua
Director: Elena López Riera
Writer: Philippe Azoury, Elena López Riera
Cast: Luna Pamiés, Alberto Olmo, Bárbara Lennie, Lidia Maria Cánovas, Nieve de Medina, Pascual Valero
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 1.11.2022

Plot:
Ana (Luna Pamiés) lives in a small village in Spain. It is the end of summer and she hangs out with her friends mostly, smoking, flirting with José (Alberto Olmo) and kind of drifting along. In her village, there is the belief that every few years a woman, freshly in love, disappears in a flood, the water itself claiming her as its love. As a storm is brewing and Ana and José become closer, maybe it is Ana who is at risk of that fate?

El agua is an intriguing mix of myth, narrative and documentary, but that mix doesn’t quite come togehter, instead losing itself in its calm pace and meandering storytelling.

The film poster showing Ana (Luna Pamiés) wearing a blue shirt the exact color of the background, so the two melt together.

El agua is the fictional extension of an earlier documentary short by López Riera. It also includes interviews with the town’s women who recount their versions of the water and how it takes women. The legend is rather fascinating, and I can very much understand why López Riera would return to it in a more extensive film. Are the women taken or do they leave? Are they cursed or simply non-conforming?

Shot still in the mode of a documentary with more or less loosely connected scenes, the film sheds light not only on the myth, but also on the village and life there. The sense of aimlessness and desperation in a town that barely has work for the young people. The work that there is. The dynamics of fitting in, or not fitting in. And water runs through it all, as do questions of gender.

Ana (Luna Pamiés) and José (Alberto Olmo) in a field of very dry palm trees.

Pamiés has a strong presence on screen. I am unsure if it’s her acting – this is acutally her first movie -, or simply her beauty, but your eyes will want to look at her at all times. She’s as hypnotic as the water is in the film, suffusing the film with a rather magical atmosphere, enhanced by a couple of actually magical moments.

Despite these many strong elements, the film doesn’t quite get it right. Things start to drag, and I couldn’t help but feel unsatisfied with the way things developed (or didn’t) in the course of the film. The film isn’t bad but it just didn’t leave a distinct impression for me in the end.

Ana (Luna Palmiés) and her grandmother (Nieve de Medina) cleaning artichokes together.

Summarizing: didn’t work for me.

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