Director: Óscar Aibar
Writer: Albert Sánchez Piñol
Recommended? Well, we’re the bad guys in it, so… no.
Another fantasy movie set during the Spanish Civil War! I loved Pan’s Labyrinth! What can go wrong?
A lot, apparently.
El Bosc (translation from Catalan: The Forest) follows a small landowning family outside a tiny town in Spain during the war. The lead male is petit-bourgeois and a sexist ass and runs away from the fight into a portal into another world. His wife is, presumably, our protagonist, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lead character with so little agency: she just waits around while men are shitty to her. That’s basically all she does the whole movie.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lead character with so little agency: she just waits around while men are shitty to her. That’s basically all she does the whole movie.
Anyway, her husband fucks off, leaving her to the nasty, snaggle-toothed, hypocritical anarchists who just want to steal her land and kill her chickens. Fortunately, she’s saved by a squad from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (the American volunteers who fought for the Spanish republic against fascism), who chase off the anarchists. Oh, sure, they squat her land and kill her chickens too, but they have better dental hygiene and play baseball, so they’re okay. Also they’re fighting for democracy! And they’re not as racist as the fascists or the anarchists!
Spoiler alert: the republicans and the anarchists lost the Spanish Civil War and the fascists won. So our land-owning male is able to come out of his alien land hidey-hole and get his wife back after only mild unpleasantness with the mildly-unpleasant fascists.
I think at its core this movie considers itself an antiwar tale. There’s a certain interesting anti-nationalism to this idea that “my country is this house” as the woman tells one of the many invading forces. And the husband has run from the war, sheltered by leftist aliens in the alien world. When war comes to the alien world, he turns around and shelters his previous host, despite his alien host being a communist.
But of course the small-holders have the privilege of being antiwar. Before the Spanish Republic, they were doing just fine. The existent social structure is great for them, and the Leftist revolution threatened that, whereas a fascist takeover doesn’t. So our bold fascist hero dukes it out with the anarchist at the end and hooray wins the girl.
This is an awful film.