I’ll write on a few more Carlos Saura films over the coming weeks. Ana and the Wolves is another Geraldine Chaplin collaboration. Here she plays the eponymous Ana, a young woman who arrives at an isolated Spanish estate to care for the three young children of Juan (José Vivó), a lascivious man who lives with his equally strange brothers: the war-obsessed José (José María Prada) and the hermit Fernando (Fernando Fernán Gómez). SPOILERS below.
The film begins and ends to emphasize the allegory. Where did Ana come from? How did she end up here?
None of it’s explained. It reminds me of Suara’s Cria Cuervos in this way: the isolated old estate where, perhaps, things remain as they did during Franco’s reign.
José makes it plain to Ana that this place is a man’s world. Sometimes he looks regal, but Saura and Ana also go out of their way to mock him:
Fernando is the most complex character in the film. He refuses to eat, paints a nearby cave white and lives there. At one point Ana hallucinates(?) that he levitates, and Saura shoots him in tender close-ups:
Their interaction is about materialism and the resistance of temptation. Together they burn Ana’s few belongings:
These interactions make the ending of the film all the harsher. It has obvious similarities to the end of Blindfolded Eyes, but the conclusion is closer-to-home and more personal than in that film.
So much of Ana and the Wolves is hallucinatory. It reminded me of Marco Ferrari at times. The film is even funny occasionally, but usually when we laugh with Ana, and not with the men running the house.
At one point early in the film Fernando has a vision of chaos outside of the house. Juan tries to rape Ana. José rides around importantly on his horse. The children cry. (These images remind me of de Chirico):
Later we return to this, but now as reality.
Saura shoots this ending in so much more detail than the dream, which was mostly in a wide.
It further complicates the film. Fernando essentially has a correct vision. Did he then, in fact, achieve some kind of nirvana in that cave? Was it not imagined when he levitated? But what does that say, given his overwhelming complicity in the final violence? It seems to me to be a stab towards hypocrisy of piety, and the impossibility of men to control their inner urges. In this way the film is very indebted to, you guess it, Buñuel. I thought of Simon of the Desert a lot.
Can we also talk about Geraldine Chaplin’s astonishing career? It’s not only her many collaborations with Saura, but also her work with the likes of Rivette, Altman, Radford and others. I’ll try to take a look at some of those other films in future posts.