On Film: Cría cuervos

Cría cuervos
1976 – Spain
Carlos Saura, writer & director

I’m going to be upfront and say that I didn’t enjoy watching Cría cuervos. Note the deliberate choice of verb there—I do not mean to say I think Cría cuervos is a bad film, on the contrary, I think it quite a good one, especially the more I think about it; it is just not a film that I take delight in.

My dissatisfaction in part I think is a measure of Saura’s success: he seeks to represent the tense family dynamics of a trio of sisters—most prominent the rebellious Ana, their aunt, and grandmother, largely confined behind the walls of their home and to strict societal expectations. The movie takes on a claustrophobic feel—everyone is trapped, there is no escape but death. It is bleak. There seems little hope. And so I couldn’t “enjoy” it, at least not in the traditional sense.

I will admit, I have almost no context for this film. I am almost completely unfamiliar with the history of 1970s Spain or with the cinema (European or otherwise) of the era. According to the accompanying DVD essay, Cría cuervos was filmed during the last days of the Franco regime. Did Saura mean for the sisters trapped by loss and rules to represent the Spanish people? Or is this a simple study of the relationships between family members made unhappy by circumstances beyond their control? Just as with literature, I suspect that good film has multiple layers and meaning that can be read depending on the viewer.

I watched Cría cuervos as part of the watchalong for Spanish Language Literature Month, hosted by Stu and Richard. Richard links to other opinions HERE.

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7 Comments

  1. Amanda, thanks so much for watching this for the event! It’s a longtime fave of mine, and I think I understand some of the reasons it made you feel conflicted about the good vs. enjoyment factor. In terms of the claustrophobia of the movie and the lack of an escape other than death for the characters, I think it’s worth noting two things: 1) The return of the girls to school at the end of the movie, while ambiguous in many ways, does show them happy to be with other kids their own age. There’s at least the possibility of hope for them in this, although other readings (inc. one I fancy) are also possible. 2) The adult Ana gives her “interviews” to the camera 20 years after the childhood portrayed in the rest of the movie. We don’t know what happened to her in the meantime, but she seems to have survived–and one would hope–adapted after all the childhood trauma. There’s a lot of more or less subtle anti-Franco sentiment in the film, but I don’t want to clog up your inbox with a book-length comment (as much as I love the film). One of the anti-Franco critiques has to do with the role of women in the Spanish society of the time, though. Cheers!

    Reply
    • Book length comments are perfectly fine, Richard, never worry about that!

      I can’t completely clarify why I felt the ending was not representative of a sort of escape or return to happiness, but I think it had to do with the knowledge that at the end of the day everyone returns home. Interestingly, I didn’t have the same response to Les quatre cent coups when I watched it several months back, even though I don’t think there’s any more solid reason to say that Antoine has finally escaped than that Ana hasn’t in Cría cuervos. (Still need to post on that…)

      Also, I feel like I need to clarify that I don’t regret watching the film. Just as with the books we read, sometimes it’s good to work a little bit. (Now, if you’d promised a rip-roaring comedy, I might be a little put out!) Thanks for hosting the watchalong!

      Reply
  2. I haven’t watched Cría Cuervos, but any serious film from the 1970’s Spain is very likely to be very critical of the Franco regime. Not only was it oppresive with center and left wing people, but with women too, confiding them to their duties as housewives and mothers.

    I am not a fan of Spanish movies either, but lately there had been some great productions. If you would like to learn more about women during Franco’s times, the movie “13 Rosas” and book and movie “La Voz Dormida” have been very successful during the last five years. I particularly hate the period due to the repression my family endured, but those who have seen/read them, instantly fell in love with them.

    Reply
    • After watching the film, I read a little on the background of it, and I did read about the oppression of women during the Franco regime. The extent of it was a bit surprising to me, in terms of how long it lasted. Thanks for the recommendations!

      Reply
      • You’re welcome! I also have some family stories (even my mom’s) so you can ask anything if you feel like it ;) There is also a huge artistic anti-Franco production from the 1970’s, music and poetry playing a key role.

        Reply
  3. I’m really enjoying reading your thoughts and insights on film. Keep these posts coming!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Diana! I actually have some other films to talk about…maybe should do something about that. :)

      Reply

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