Tierra (Earth, 1996)
Written and directed by Julio Médem
Starring: Carmelo Gómez, Emma Suárez, Karra Elejalde, Silke, Nancho Novo
BY R. MARTÍNEZ
There is a certain amount of complexity in Julio Medem’s films. The Basque director has developed his own fictional universe through a very recognisable range of elements which often include non-chronological narration, incomplete stories and emotionally unstable characters. Medem – who graduated in Medicine and Psychology – seems sometimes more concerned about achieving a better knowledge of the human being through his films than of satisfying the general public. A good example of this sociological desire for understanding human nature can be found in the film Tierra.
The film follows Ángel (Carmelo Gómez) who is travelling to a small village in rural Spain from where he has been hired to carry out a fumigation job. The locals are having problems with a bug (`la cochinilla´) which is causing the wine to taste like earth. We find out through Ángel himself that he is ‘half man and half angel’. He is connected to the universe and claims to have been dead before. Soon after arriving in the village he falls in love with Ángela (Emma Suárez), a pretty housewife who stoically puts up with her brute husband Patricio (Karra Elejalde). On the other hand Ángel’s human side feels sexually appealed by the sensual Mari (Silke), a 19 year-old city girl who is spending some time in the village and who claims to have `too much sex in her´. Ángel soon sees himself in the middle of a very complex love triangle and is surrounded, at the same time, by the truly extraordinary events happening in the area.
Tierra is built on dichotomy and opposition. The dark blue sky is contrasted to the earth’s bright red tone. Ángel’s dual personality (the human versus the spiritual) is reflected on his attraction for two extremely different women – Ángela who represents spirituality, stability, romantic purity and the family is completely opposite to Mari, a perfect example of sensual love, animal instinct and freedom. Ángel’s antagonist Patricio – who typically embodies the image of the Spanish macho – owns the land, a house and the two women Ángel yearns for. We hear Ángel keeping conversations with his other self who appears visibly in some fragments of the film. This inherent discourse seems to keep Ángel sane and more attached to reality.
Tierra can be interpreted at many different levels. It could be classified, in terms of genre, as a romantic melodrama in which the characters attempt to find happiness through both physical and spiritual love. The film’s most disconcerting scenes, though, relate to death and seem influenced by magic realism, a literary tradition in which the magic and the extraordinary take over in a normal, realistic environment. The structure is not completely linear as the narration moves back and forward, which works as an attempt to mirror the complexity of the human mind, human relations and – at a philosophical level perhaps- life itself.