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Saturday, October 27, 2012

EVEN THE RAIN -- DVD review by porfle

Sometimes a movie that I'm not all that interested in watching at first becomes one of my most memorable viewing experiences of recent years.  EVEN THE RAIN (2010) is all that and more.

A Spanish film crew arrives in the Bolivian jungle to make a revisionist historical drama about Christopher Columbus and his enslavement of the "Indians" in the name of the Church, the Queen, and Spain in general.  The filmmakers, led by idealistic young director Sebastian (Gael García Bernal) and penny-pinching producer Costa (Luis Tosar), initially fail to see the irony in their own treatment of the Bolivian natives as they take advantage of them by using them as extras and laborers for a mere two dollars per day.

Another parallel lies in the way a foreign water company moves in to claim sole water rights in the entire area (including "even the rain" that falls from the sky), forcing the natives to do without and even shutting down their attempts to build a ditch to bring water to their villages.  Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri), whose natural assertiveness and courage prompted Sebastian to hire him for a lead role in his film, finds himself living the part in real life as he leads his people in an increasingly violent rebellion against the water company and, eventually, the combined forces of the police and militia. 

EVEN THE RAIN starts out fairly low-key and takes a while to get wound up--in fact, I had no idea that this "diary of a film" would eventually evolve into such a highly-charged and deeply emotional political thriller.  The story focuses primarily on Sebastian's film at first, as its world-weary star, Antón (Karra Elejalde of TIMECRIMES), immerses himself in the role of Columbus during rehearsals.  Hints of the past exploitation of the "Indians" begin to emerge in the present as both Sebastian and Costa take unfair advantage of the Bolivians as a cheap and easily manipulated labor resource. 

It isn't until their key indigenous actor Daniel becomes the leader of the growing revolt against the water company that the filmmakers take an interest in the villagers' plight, and then only in relation to how it affects their project.  The first street violence occurs offscreen as cast and crew rub shoulders with local government and begin to feel pangs of social conscience.  "People earning two dollars a day can't afford a 300% increase in their water bill," Sebastian gently chides one city official.  "Isn't two dollars a day what you're paying your extras?" the man responds.

Since Daniel's presence is crucial to finishing their film, Sebastian and Costa become more and more involved in keeping the rebel leader out of jail and in one piece as the violence heats up.  While Sebastian remains obsessed with the project, Costa gradually feels shamed by his attitude and becomes increasingly sympathetic toward Daniel and his family, to the point where he's willing to sacrifice everything to help them. 

This is where EVEN THE RAIN kicks into high gear and draws the viewer into gripping political suspense reminiscent of such films as THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY and THE KILLING FIELDS but on a smaller, more personal level.  Direction by Icíar Bollaín is confident but restrained, with excellent performances all around and a moving score by Alberto Iglesias.  The film-within-a-film sequences we see as Sebastian and company labor over their "Columbus" movie are so well done that you may find yourself wishing you could see the entire finished product. 

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 Spanish soundtrack.  Subtitles are in English, Spanish, and French.  The sole extra is a trailer.

EVEN THE RAIN starts out slow and gradually gains in power until it is thoroughly involving, with an emotionally resonant ending that's both haunting and cathartic.  It's a film I won't soon forget.

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