Cria Cuervos, a film by Carlos Saura, gets its title from a Spanish proverb, which roughly translates as “Raise ravens, and they’ll take out your eyes”. The implication, as far as I took it, being: you reap what you sow. I don’t know how far the film could’ve taken such an idea for a premise, but the resulting film, to me, never felt like it had taken it far enough. I’ve seen several comparisons between this and The Spirit of the Beehive, mostly because both films star child actress Ana Torrent, and deal with similar topics. Seeing as I was only modestly pleased with that one, it seems fitting that I would end up in almost the exact same position with this one.
The film follows the life of young Ana, the middle child and sister to two other girls, as they try to live their lives after the death of first their mother, from illness, and then their father, from a heart attack. What makes Cria Cuervos relatively unique in its storytelling is that Ana is a very stoic and internal child, and has frequent imaginings of her mother and father either in the present time as wholly fictional phantoms, or through memories of her past where they are still alive, and this imagination is very often portrayed as is on screen, oftentimes blurred with actual reality. The film had a very confusing way of doing things, flipping between the fantasies and memories of child Ana and the reality of her life so seamlessly that it was hard to tell between the two. Add to that that the actress playing Ana’s dead mother also plays an adult version of Ana seen only in fantasies made it even more confusing, and I was forced to conclude that the film was deliberately trying to make itself confusing as a ploy against the audience. Regardless of whether the film was intentionally being coy, it was certainly expressive, and served to portray a characterization of young Ana as rather morose and moribund; frequent mention is brought up of a powder she keeps hidden, which her mother told her was a poison powerful enough to kill an elephant with one spoonful, and Ana quite often falls back on thoughts of death or dying, either with herself, the ones who have already passed on, or the ones she wishes would do the same. The technical side of the film was okay, but really I bring up the technicals to once again point out a rather glaring flaw in them: the overdubbing, which was a pretty big issue. It wouldn’t have been as bad if the entire film had been consistent with when it used ADR, but it wasn’t, switching between overdubbed dialogue and on-set recorded dialogue, sometimes in the same sentence, making it embarrassingly conspicuous.
The overdubbing aside, I wasn’t sure what to think of this one. I wanted it to be good, and I wanted to think of it as good, but I didn’t connect with it nearly enough for me to really reach that conclusion. It was too aloof, too disconnected, for me to appreciate what it had to offer. Now, this may itself be the point; Ana, as a character, is very much aloof and disconnected, not to mention detached from reality, but as I’ve said countless times before, such a character study may be well done and accomplish what it sets out to do, but it doesn’t make for very entertaining viewing. At this point in my quest, I would have been fine with just feeling satisfied at the end of this film, but I didn’t even get that. I’m really stuck as to how to recommend this; I’ve seen a few other reviews that loved this to death, but I just… didn’t, and there were times during the film where I felt like I was actively trying to, but it just wasn’t happening. Who knows; you might end up a lot better off than me.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10