Cría Cuervos

Cría Cuervos

A young girl wakes in the middle of the night and goes downstairs for water. She hears sounds of lovemaking from her parent’s room then her father suddenly, desperately complaining he cannot breathe, that he’s choking. The girl stays transfixed on the stairs and after a few more moments the bedroom door opens and a woman – not her mother – emerges in state of undress and flees the house. What the girl does next is perplexing. She enters the room herself, gives her father’s lifeless body a phlegmatic glance and retrieves a bedside glass of milk, taking it to the kitchen to wash it clean. In the kitchen she meets her mother who lightly chastises her for being up at such an hour, kisses her then sends her to bed.

The little girl is Ana and it’s only a few days later when her and her two sisters are preparing for their father’s funeral that we learn their mother has in fact been dead some years. Abandoned at such an early age Ana develops a fascination with death and convinces herself she has some kind of control over it. We see her summon the ghost of her mother at will and it becomes clear the glass she so assiduously cleaned was one she’d previously laced with poison as punishment for her father’s philandering. The film follows her over the course of the summer holidays as she uses memories of her parents to navigate this new and unfamiliar world.

Cría Cuervos

Carlos Saura filmed Cría Cuervos in late 1975 as Generalissimo Franco lay dying and the story plays as a allegory of Spain’s recent past and its future hopes. Ana’s father, a military man who once fought alongside the Wermacht stands in for the Fascist Dictatorship while her undermined and weak mother can be seen as the Spanish Republic.

“Love me, don’t leave me here all day” the mother intones desperately to her husband one night,

“Here we go again with your infernal illness. I’m fed up with your complaints. I am what I am; leave me alone” comes his heartless reply.

Where it differs from most allegorical films is in the way Saura crafts the picture. Passing back and forth in time the director weaves a picture of a traumatised girl lost in a world were death is all pervasive and whose only outlet is to create fantasy among the morbidness. Memories are played with, revisited and warped, with characters from the present often appearing in past scenes; past players invading the present. Saura is never heavy handed with his metaphors and in the central character, the seven year old Ana Torrent, he has discovered a muse who brings his vision effortlessly to the screen.

The film’s title comes from the Spanish proverb ¡Cría cuervos y te sacaran los ojos! (Raise ravens and they’ll peck out your eyes) and is perhaps Saura’s pessimistic jibe at the first post-Franco generation of Spanish youth, so trumatised by the years of oppression they cannot yet be expected to make a clean break from the past.

Cría Cuervos – directed by Carlos Saura (1976)

In Short
A touching allegory of Spain as it slowly emerged from the shadow of Francoism.
Trailer here