Los Santos inocentes


Los Santos inocentes
The Holy innocents (1984).
   Los Santos inocentes, directed by Mario Camus, is one of the most accomplished films of the 1980s, promoted as an example of the success of recently introduced Socialist legislation that encouraged quality films in a clear attempt to fight the flood of cheap comedies and soft porn that dominated the film industry in the immediate post-Franco years. After its success at the 1984 Cannes Festival, it became a symbol of the success of General Director for Cinematography Pilar Miró's measures and of the potential for the Spanish film industry to penetrate foreign markets. The film emphasized some of the cinematic elements that the socialist legislation sought to promote: a social conscience, technical dexterity, seriousness, and engagement with the past, as well as solid production values, and it became something of a calling card for post-Franco Spanish films.
   Based on a Miguel Delibes novel that links with the tradition of rural drama, it follows in a series of flashbacks the lives of the members of a poor peasant family in the heart of rural Spain who work for a despotic landowner. The film follows the relationship between the father, Paco, played by Alfredo Landa, and his employer, Iván (Juan Diego), who to him is something of a god who can give and take away privileges. Paco's continuous fawning and the way he boasts about a situation close to enslavement is almost painful to watch, especially since it was so recognizable to so many people.
   The story is narrated in flashbacks, when Paco's son and daughter come back to their old home and remember the events that led their uncle, simpleton Azarías (Paco Rabal), to kill señorito Iván as revenge for the latter having shot his favorite bird. But rather than a plot-driven narrative, Camus was interested in reconstructing a whole way of life, a snapshot of certain social structures. In this sense, Hans Burman's cinematography added a layer of neatness that was incongruent with the background, but not entirely unwelcome to audiences, and focused on every detail of the peasants' grim lives.
   Imaginative casting was one of the film's boldest decisions. The film became a milestone in revealing hitherto hidden (or simply unacknowledged) acting skills in Alfredo Landa (who won acting awards in international festivals for this performance), and it re-launched Francisco Rabal's career as a character actor. He would play the same kind of rough, uneducated type in ensuing films. Both shared the best-actor Cannes award that year.
   Historical Dictionary of Spanish Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.