As Bestas: Galician Straw Dogs by Rodrigo Sorogoyen

Two years later MadreRodrigo Sorogoyen invites himself into the Galician landscape with Som Bestasa tense thriller that evokes the discrimination and intimidation that a French couple is subjected to in a small peasant village.

Welcome to the campaign

Around a table filmed in close-up, a group of men initiate a larger discussion on various political and cultural topics. Farmers living in significant poverty vehemently deplore the dangers of ecology, harvesting and immigration. At the end of the table, Xan, 50, leads the discussion with excessive passion, like a political figure in the middle of a speech trying to stir up the crowds that observe him attentively. On the other side of the room, leaning on the bar, an impressive figure hears from behind everything with an attentive ear. Xan ends up yelling at him and calling him “the Frenchman”, a call that the man ends up answering and lets some concern show up in his face.

During this tense introductory scene, the mechanics ofSom Bestas can be glimpsed: it is the Spaniards who are challenging the French, seen as an old colonizing threat in their eyes, which they evoke in their speeches. But the mission of Antoine and Olga, a French couple living in the village, has a humanitarian and ecological goal. They are eager to repopulate a region devastated by poverty by renovating old houses abandoned by former residents fleeing poverty. Som Bestas therefore takes an innovative narrative path by taking as its starting point a classic narrative about prejudices and values. Here the Sorogoy moves away from the subject of national racism, which would see Spaniards attack Spaniards or Frenchmen attack Frenchmen. Being a Spanish citizen himself, he breathes a very personal point of view into his film and does not spare his people in the face of xenophobic anger towards foreign people.

To represent this French “threat”, who is better than two of the most popular actors at the moment? Marina Foïs and Denis Ménochet deliver an extraordinary composition in front of their Spanish colleagues and allow themselves to be trampled into the heart of fiction to show that even Frenchmen of the rather upper middle class (Antoine is a former teacher) can fall victim to racism, resigned and frontal. With his impressive physique and withdrawn face, always on the verge of implosion, the Sorogoy magnifies Denis Ménochet, who is unable to defend himself against the attacks of his weak-looking neighbors, showing that clothing is certainly not enough. . Som Bestas therefore succeeds excellently in overcoming prejudices and showing that violence and intimidation spare absolutely no one, both in large cities and in territories that seem peaceful and calming.

“Who are the red necks?”

This is how Olga (Marina Foïs) asks the question after a long series of humiliations. And it is the one that best sums up the real message of the film that goes beyond the simple idea of ​​a racist lynching. The sorogoy strongly dissects the social problems that govern his homeland. This idea goes through this subsoil dedicated to the construction of a wind project desired by a section of the village population that would allow residents to “fill their pockets,” according to Xan and his brother. The social misery of the village is so impressive that a project, no matter how organic, would make it possible to save an entire village. Although this point would have deserved more development, it makes it possible to establish a narrative framework that allows the main explanation for the tensions between neighbors, given that Antoine apparently shows reservations about this project, despite his obsession with ecology and ecological agriculture.

But despite the many shots on the desert corners of the village, the strength is offSom Bestas lies in its many uninterrupted dialogue scenes. The Sorogoy puts down the camera and lets the dialogue be created, without music and without movement, to allow the conflict to deepen outside the scenes with psychological and physical lynchings, and allows for a direct throw into the mentality of the two brothers who do. are never shown as pure freaks, but rather as men drowning year after year in surrounding misery.

The change of narrative direction and the arrival of a third character during 3/4 of the film are also relevant because they allow us to get out of a narrative that is simply based on successive scenes of intimidation that would end up walking around in circles. a classic case. In addition to digging a little deeper into the protagonists’ psychology, the tensions also appear different, and the film slides towards a classic but effective theme: Revenge quietly builds a nest, and the wave of violence changes hands. This no longer stems from verbal and physical violence, but from human resistance in their most courageous nature, that which consists in holding on to their attitudes in order to weaken the adversary.

Ultimately, Som Bestas therefore succeeds in betting that psychological thriller goes off the beaten track because it is not limited to a simple conflict between good and evil, but rather an opposition between the countryside and the city, between France and Spain and between the educated and the miserable, all on an ecological and social message that resonates from the Spanish regions to the French territories.

Visual: © Lucia Faraig

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