Review: Tramontana (2009)

Tramontana (2009)

Directed by: Ramon Gieling | 90 minutes | drama | Actors: Luis Soler, Yohana Cobo, Pepa Lopez, Blanca Martinez, Pep Molina, Gorka Lasaosa, Sebastian Haro, Frank Feys, Boris Ruiz, Carles Sales, Hector Claramunt, Carlos Lasarte

‘Tramontana’, the opening film of the 2009 Netherlands Film Festival, centers on a mysterious suicide. Director Ramón Gieling wrote the screenplay for the film himself and opposed the dictatorial regime of Franco. The love between the elder Pepet Tremolls and the eighteen-year-old Rosa Campos de Amor stirs the Spanish village: feelings such as jealousy, spurned love, hurt and moral indignation take over. When churchgoers leave Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, boys see a snowman hanging. They pelt him with snowballs. Rosa Campos de Amor, a young woman, is shocked to see who she really is. It is her friend and lover, Pepet Tremolls.

Many years later, four men from the village try to reconstruct history when number 24 falls during a bingo night and they are reminded of the bygone history on December 24. Because none of them knows exactly what happened at the time, they fantasize about it. In this way, partly from their mouths and against the background of the maddening tramontane wind, the story is told of the dramatic love between Pepet, an erudite and misanthropic man of sixty, and the simple eighteen-year-old Rosa.

A nice find in the scenario is that Gieling raises many questions about Pepet’s death. He does not answer those questions directly, but lets the villagers fully speculate about them and the conspiracy theories are therefore not out of the air. Can the truth still be found? Did Pepet actually commit suicide or not and was this a possible consequence of the Tramontana? Did Rosa Pepet spin his head and drive him mad with desire that she led him to his deed?

The village idiot Federico Costa was deeply in love with Rosa, but she was out of reach for him. Was Federico jealous and killed Pepet? Or were there other men in the village who could be the perpetrators? Was Rosa really just a girl who saw in Pepet the father figure she hadn’t known? Was she really as naive as she pretended to be or was she a slut who played with Pepet after all?

The main characters are well developed. The role of Rosa is convincingly played by the young Yohana Cobo. She already played strong as the daughter of Penélope Cruz in Pedro Almodóvar’s ‘Volver’. Lluís Soler plays the role of Pepet with verve and very believable. Soler is best known in Spain for his roles in Spanish plays. Other roles include Pepa López, Gorka Lasaosa, Sebastián Haro and Blanca Martinez. These less important roles are also performed well.

In addition to the excellent casting, the location of the story is also well chosen. The film is set in the Catalan town of Cadaqués, where well-known Spanish artists such as Federico García Lorca, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, as well as the surrealist painter/artist Salvador Dalí, settled. Dali is frequently referred to in the script. Unlike the sunny summer images, when hordes of tourists flood this picture, it is winter during the story and the Tramontana blows along the mountains. This howling wind heightens the mysterious atmosphere surrounding the film and its story.

Gieling, who previously made ‘En un momento dado’ (the much acclaimed documentary about the life and work of Johan Cruijff in Barcelona) and ‘Joaquín Sabina – 19 dias y 500 noches’, once again delivers a fine piece of cinema. Poetically filmed, subtle humor, beautifully subdued without grand gestures and the landscape around Cadaqués is harmoniously built into the story. A warm and ‘arty’ film.

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