Set in the rich and vibrant Catalonian countryside, Alcarràs is the story of the collision between modernisation and tradition, and the disintegration of a close-knit family, living a seemingly idyllic lifestyle.
Made up of a cast of non-professional actors, there is a glorious authenticity to the performances, and the film is in no way limited by the cast’s lack of experience. The story is mostly told through the eyes and perspective of the three youngest children of the Solé family, and there is a definite feeling of innocence that flows throughout the film.
One of the aspects I found the most interesting was that the audience is made aware of change at all generational levels. There are the aforementioned children with their innocence to everything that is going on, then the two teenagers with their desire to both help their family and protect their livelihoods, but you can also see the lure of the outside world. There is a mixture of hope and realism in the adult contingent of the family, and this could be seen as the catalyst for the decline of the family unit. In terms of the familial relationships, there is more of a focus on the male relationships rather than the females, which could be considered a good and a bad thing. In some ways, there is a feeling that the women are background characters, which doesn’t seem to sit particularly right in this century. However, in other ways, the focus on the male relationships is an interesting angle, as you see a certain vulnerability in the men, which is not always portrayed in cinema.
In being the first Catalan film to win the Golden Bear at the Berlinale, the film is opening doors for a new area of representation for the over 9 million speakers of Catalan. One could say that the forced end of the traditional summer peach picking seen in the film could be a reflection of the loss of regional languages in Spain and across the world. As well as the Berlinale award, Alcarràs was awarded the Lurra Greenpeace prize, which is given to films which “reflect the values of defending the environment and peace”, solidifying the film’s eco credentials.
Overall, this is a heartfelt call to the beauty of the environment and how supposedly efficient and more economical solutions could and do make irrevocable changes not just to the natural world, but also to those who rely on it.
Alcarràs is screening at Plymouth Arts Cinema from Friday 27 January – Thursday 2 February
Reviewed by Imogen Parkin