by Billie Walker
Our resident film purveyor, Billie Walker, reviews the first film hot and fresh from a virtual International Film Festival Rotterdam
A group of aging women in a rather deserted village are the focus of Ainhoa Rodriguez’ Destello Bravio or ‘Mighty Flash’.
The film unveils the hypocrisy of Catholicism and the deeply entrenched differences in genders within its traditions. The image of the virgin mother, who glows an alien green throughout, is often shown on screen as central to the village church. However much they praise Mary, the wives and daughters of the village tell tales of despair brought on by the men in their lives.
A portrait of toxic masculinity which chooses to focus on the women that must endure it, the film stands out for this decision rather than joining the ever-growing mass of films that centre the ‘masc’. in toxic masculinity. It is not that this is an unnecessary spotlight, but it feels refreshing to see a different focal point.
The first thing that you notice is this film is beautifully visioned. I would label this magic realist as its dalliances with witchcraft give it an otherworldly touch, but I fear this subtracts from the film’s power. It is filled with decadence in a traditional religious sense and contrasts this with bleak sparse shots of old village houses. The opulence is reserved for the religious regalia, with interiors filled with lace, gold leaf and mahogany yet the citizens' houses contain rickety furniture and handcrafted doily covered surfaces.
Trailer courtesy of Cineuropa
It has at times a Lynchian bizarreness, changing tone unflinchingly from banal conversation to odd suggestions, like the wife that forces her husband to get out of bed and climb a ladder to confirm that the ceiling tastes different. The setting of a dwindling village feels like a choice Lynch would make much as there is a desperation felt by the folk who are forced to congregate in car parks or cheap karaoke bars to distract from their dull lives.
Women are what make this film, they are resplendent in their dark eyeliner, red lips and coiffed hair. While the men hunt stag, kill birds and grunt, the women are the community, enduring male stupidity while helping each other through ageing, grief and drunkenness. They hold the magic that gives this film its wonder, shattering any stereotypes of the ageing woman as fragile and useless to society.
These women are the keepers of their village regardless of the men’s futile efforts to oppress them. They lift each other up reminding one another of their power, resuscitating them from their monotonous domesticated existences.
Billie Walker is a London-based writer who enjoys Campari-based drinks as bitter as she is. There will always be a horror film on her laptop and feta in the fridge. She devours books as frequently as salty cheeses. See more of her work here