Review: La reconquista (2016)

The evolution of Spanish filmmaker Jonás Trueba.

by Marina González

La reconquista (The Reconquest, 2016) participated in the official selection of the 64th San Sebastián Film Festival; now the Spanish movie competes in the 31st edition of the Mar de Plata International Film Festival, as part of the International Competition lineup.

Jonás Trueba has said that in his film shy people do not stop talking because of some kind of fear of the silence. His cinema is like that, shy. His films are about shy people, made for shy people.

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His movies define a generation of young people who’re already in their 30s and who do not know how to advance in their existence, always falling back on memories and could-have-beens. Trueba is a risky author, though, and sometimes his courage makes him pretentious. He knows how to play with pauses and with the poetry of words, something that’s not that simple. He began his career co-writing scripts like Más pena pena Gloria (2001) and Vete de mí (2006), and later co-writing El baile de la Victoria (2009) (adapting Antonios Skármeta’s eponymous novel) with Skármeta and his father Fernando Trueba (author of films like Belle Époque (1994)).

In 2010 Trueba began his career as director, and we can clearly see his evolution. He started with Todas las canciones hablan de mí (2010), a movie whose script had less to do with cinema than with literature; by his next film Los ilusos (2013) he was paying special attention to the properly cinematic (ie. framing, shooting, editing) part of filmmaking, an education continued with Los exiliados románticos (2015). Now in La reconquista, he’s crafted a more elaborate story, structuring a game-like plot through time with love letters as a guiding thread.

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His film is aided by 5 elements: music, its actors, literature, uncertainty and the city of Madrid itself.

  • Music is always his confidant. Many of the artists who accompany him in his journals are often independent circuit musicians who help him create a dreamlike atmosphere. Tulsa accompanies Los exiliados románticos, Franco Battiato explains with music the spirit of Todas las canciones hablan de mi and now in La reconquista he uses Rafael Berrio’s ouevre.
  • ActorsJonás relies on his actors and their feelings, he makes them part of the creative process, playing with improvisation in order to achieve a special kind of spontaneity.
  • Literature is a leitmotiv in his work. Influenced by authors like Milan Kundera and Georges Perec he uses literary quotes to find common places with the spectator. He is defined by many as the heir to the French nouvelle vague of the late 1950s. He also takes after his father Fernando Trueba as well as Eric Rohmer, François Truffaut and Woody Allen among many others.
  • Uncertainty, he talks about the existential crisis of the youth of our generation. The life that could be and was not, the melancholy of those who looks back with the doubt of not knowing if the current present is better than the future that once awaited them. His films show a romanticism that perhaps is not according to this time, where idealism seems to be out of fashion.
  • The city is an active part of his films; Madrid his hometown, is protagonist, dressed in romanticism. His films are a perfect way to meet the bohemian and poetical side of the city of Madrid.

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La reconquista is broken into vignettes, both past and present; those pieces are united through a love letter once shared by two teenagers. Manuela and Olmo, now both thirty year-olds, remember the idyll they lived at the age of 15.  The cast features Itsaso Arana, Francesco Carril (he’s starred in his Trueba’s last two films and become his fetish actor), Aura Garrido, Candela Recio and Pablo Hoyos.

The title does not seem to fit with the story as it progresses, in some interviews Trueba ascertains that he likes the titles that surprise the viewer, whose meaning change once you’ve seen the movie.

Definitely Jonás Trueba is a filmmaker that still has a lot to learn about filmmaking, but he is a diamond in the rough. His personality will make him part of a generation of Spanish filmmakers who will continue to tell us stories about love and nostalgia in the future.


Marina

Marina González / Writer (Madrid, Spain – 1985) She graduated in Mining Engineering from the Madrid Politécnica and now works at a renewable energy company, fighting against climate change. She became a film buff during college, splitting her time between books on energy & fuels and film seminars. She began reviewing in 2014, covering the San Sebastián film festival.

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