“Biutiful” – a Spanish film that defies words

Feb 7, 2011 by

“How do you spell ‘beautiful’ ?”  A ten year old Ana looks up to her father. Bending down over her English homework, he says: “Let me see. The way you say it: Biutiful.”

The lives of  the characters in this new Spanish film are precisely that – ‘butiful’,  misspelled and mismanaged. The film portrays beauty that’s missing in life. Beauty that exists only in imagination, as a fictional contrast to the realities of  ugliness, death, disease, lack of love, poverty, illegal immigrants, accidents… It is a film for strong spectators. And for  almost empty cinema halls.

A friend that took me there has not read the reviews to the end – just the few first lines saying that the film is about a magician. So we went, waiting for a Spanish magician to show up with a rabbit, and what we got was a story of a ‘magician’ of the dead – a man who helps people cross over Styx, take the very last journey and close their eyes.

No words can describe the intensity, emotion and drama that I witnessed on the screen for the last two hours. It is in me, in images that shout, but do not speak – no words, no music, just silence. Let me just say a few words around the film as the content needs either to be seen, or not spoken about.

I believe that no such film could have been made in America, or England, or probably any other country.  It is not a coincidence that it was born inthe motherland of Almodovar and sangria. I listened to the Spanish of the dialogues and I could not imagine it spoken in any other language. Subtitles hardly managed to convey the Spanish sensitivity, the subtleties – words that tried to capture sense and meaning, but only managed to bring out despair and chaos of the protagonists’ confused lives.

One of the many tragic fates of the film is that of illegal, Chinese immigrants to Spain. Imagine: a beach of Barcelona, early morning, the sun gently climbing up the azure sky. Before tourists crawl out from their air-conditioned, with-the-view-to- the-sea hotel apartments, dozens of bodies appear on the beach. Brought by the waves, scattered on the sand, like salt. The plot explains where they the corpses came from, but quite apart from the circumstances, such images remain with you and make you wonder: why? All the arguments, stretching from human rights to security, politics and economy, Cameron’s recent speech on the ‘failed mutliculturalism’ ring a deaf sound behind this image. And a deaf and deafening: why…

Such ‘whys’ multiply throughout the film.  Injustice of governments and fate, poverty of people and spirit, addictions to substance and emptiness, children that do not understand but feel, and parents that do not feel, but understand. Suffering that is undeserved, but just as real, and a white landscape at the end. With trees that had been, are and will be. Indifferent. Watching. Some bend down but most remain straight.

I am not sure if this is a recommendation. Some films cannot be or not be recommended. All I would say is that ‘Butiful’ is worth seeing, as it had been made masterfully, but it is a heavy emotional load. So if you feel strong, have a good friend nearby, and want to find out things that are true but difficult, you should go and see it.

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  1. Jacek

    I wish I was able to see this movie – but I have to wait until June!

  2. Mark Pavey

    This film is absolutely wonderful, i think every body should see it, it’s a masterpiece! xx

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