A retelling of an ancient fable about a Blacksmith who captures a demon.
My roommate and I scrolled past this movie several days in a row, each time saying the name just because we couldn’t pronounce it, and it sounded funny trying to figure it out, and finally, on the third or fourth day in a row of passing it by, we paused and asked ourselves what the film was about. After a brief glance online we saw that the film received split reviews, but the story itself was based on a Basque folktale ‘Patxi Errementaria.’ I personally have a great interest in all things fantasy, and so we found ourselves intrigued enough to watch the film, and I’m honestly glad we did. I know in the past I’ve written about how watching foreign language films can expand your views on the world by showing you glimpses of different culture, and never has that been more true than with a film like this, a story based on ancient folklore. If just for the production design and the story itself, this film is worth watching; there are a few moments towards the end that look a little weaker than others, but overall this film looks amazing.
Fables and False Promises
After the blacksmith Paxti (Kandido Uranga, “Vavas”) captures a demon named Sartael (Eneko Sagardoy, “The Giant”), he cages it and hides away like a hermit for a number of years. After a while, the blacksmith’s presence has a disquieting effect on the residents of a nearby village, and they begin to suspect he is evil. When a little girl named Usue (Uma Bracaglia) wanders onto Paxti’s property her soul is put in danger.
So really, the thing I liked most about this movie was getting a glimpse into another culture’s folklore. The director Paul Urkijo Alijo said of the film that it was a “gothic horror demonic tale with adventure and black humor,” and that he intended to “plunge the spectator into Basque folk fantastic imagery” that he loves- (from Variety). If that was Alijo’s intent then he succeeded admirably. This film is full of wonderfully creepy sets and settings, and the worlds feel tangible, as if they’ve been researched extensively. The tone that Alijo chooses to use- the darkly humorous one he mentioned- works fantastically well for this story. There are moments that are genuinely quite frightening. When we first meet the blacksmith and the demon, we see things from Usue’s perspective, and the way Sartael tries to trick Usue is quite unsettling. But while some scenes are certainly dark and borderline disturbing, there are other smaller elements that really lighten the tone: the demons, for example can be tricked by pouring chickpeas on the ground (for they are possessed by an overwhelming desire to count them) and Alijo approaches violence in a way that feels almost like slapstick.
There was a surprising amount of heart that went into this story as well, and I think a lot of that had to do with the directing but also the acting by Uranga as the Blacksmith and Uma as Usue. I was reminded a lot of a Del Toro film throughout my viewing; from the production design to the general tone of the piece. I also thought that the movie captured the feeling of older legends and lore like the stories of the Brothers Grimm; dark but still magical.
As a whole, I enjoyed this film far more than I thought I would. It was incredibly different than what I thought it would be when I went into it, and for that I am glad. When I started the movie, I expected it to be a semi-schlocky horror flick with a high body count and some cool effects, but instead I was met with a thoughtful folk story with some interesting twists, beautiful production design, and more heart that I ever would’ve expected. While I can say for certain that this movie is not for everyone, I can say that the right audience will be entertained.
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