Cria Cuervos, A Film By Carlos Saura: Movie Review
Movie Poster of "Cria Cuervos"
Summary And Analysis
In the film Cria Cuervos directed by Carlos Saura, we see the mixing of reality and fantasy, the combination of inner trauma with an outer world of political upheaval. The film is both an allegory for the destructive effects of fascism on the Spanish people and also a psychological exploration of childhood fears. For Carlos Saura, childhood is not the idyllic wonderland that it is often portrayed as. It is not even a positive experience. As in all of his films, this movie smashes the idea and opens new avenues into the understanding of the modern psyche.
Ana is an eight-year old girl played by Ana Torrent. She is left under the care of her authoritarian father, Hector Alterio, after the death of her mother. The movie opens with Ana witnessing her father being presumably killed by a woman, Mirta Miller, whom she sees leaving his room. Her father in fact does die, but we come to learn that many of Ana's visions are in the realm of her imagination and not necessarily the literal fact of the outer drama. After witnessing the woman leave her dad's room, Ana journeys to the kitchen taking a glass of milk. She washes the glass clean as if destroying evidence of a poison. With her dad gone, Ana's aunt comes to watch after the children. Ana's aunt Paulina is played by Monica Randall, and Ana acts vindictively towards Aunt Paulina most of the movie.
Ana eventually attempts to murder her aunt, using the same poisonous powder that she thinks was used on her father. However, the plan does not work when Aunt Paulina drinks the powder and still remains alive. Ana remembers the powder as something her mother once told her should always be thrown away. Ana then assumes it's poison, but it's really discovered only to be baking soda. Like many scenes of the movie, imagination mixes with reality. In some ways this shows the effects of fascism. Franco has left the country in a state of being unable to know what is real. The unknown lurks, terrifying, around every corner, and it's hard to know what is certain, what can be held onto for support, and what kind of truth is still left undestroyed.
Marvin D'Lugo writes in Chapter 5 of his book, The Films of Carlos Saura, that the movie is about destroying myths and the potential for an opening up, a growth. Ana clings to the childhood myth of control, and many of her fantasies are a way of playing out this need for control. Ana dreams of killing her aunt and of killing herself. She lives in an uncertain world that terrifies her, and she seeks mastery. But ultimately, this is not found, and in the moment when her aunt lives through Ana's attempt at murder, Ana seems to realize her own powerlessness. Childhood control is dismissed, but also a more profound human control. This can be applied to both the socio-political reality of Spain, and the own psychological reality of humanity's own powerlessness. And yet Ana, in this smashing of the myth, appears to be moving towards a deeper maturity of acceptance (D'Lugo 136-137).
The title, taken from a Spanish proverb, suggests that children raised poorly will grow up to hurt you. In this case, it can literally be Ana and her sisters as the children, and also the people of Spain. Franco's paternalism was a poisonous one, and the people of his country have turned into problems for his regime and those like him, ravens plucking eyes out.
There was still strict censorship during this time, and this film passed the board's criteria. At first, it seemed a possible problem that the military father was in the movie, but eventually this was seen to be only peripheral. So the film was permitted (D'Lugo 137). It makes sense then that the film should be understood as allegory for the country at large. If an outright literal attack was not possible because of censorship boards, then an allegorical attack was the only possibility.
Throughout the movie, Ana returns time and time again to listen to the song "porque te vas," a beautiful song that comes extremely haunting inside the context of the movie. Ana is shown in these moments and in others reflecting and brooding, and the film does a good job in capturing her confusion and intensity of trauma. Aside from larger political inferences, the film is an excellent window into the dark regions of the human mind.