- La Aldea maldita
- The Cursed Village (1930)Florián Rey's first version of La aldea maldita is among the earliest undisputable classics of Spanish cinema. The project of a serious rural drama was ambitious for the time and so different from the usual genres that Rey found it impossible to get it funded by the existing producing companies. With the help of future director Juan de Orduña and leading man Pedro Larrañaga, he contributed the budget and set out to shoot on location in Ayllón, Pedraza, Sepúlveda, and Segovia.The film tells the story of Juan Castilla (Larrañaga), a laborer in a small village in Castille that is considered "cursed" because the crops are systematically destroyed by weather conditions year after year. Driven to madness to see a wealthy man thrive when he, his son, and his wife Acacia (Carmen Viance), who live with his blind father are starving, he attempts to murder him. He is taken to jail, and Acacia is forced to seek a living in the city, where she becomes a fallen woman. A few years later, Juan is released from prison and finds her in a café. He takes her back for the sake of his old father, but when the latter dies, she is forced to wander around the frozen moors, crying for her son. At the end comes forgiveness and reconciliation.In spite of the rural setting and the melodramatic plot, Rey worked to avoid costumbrismo and any sense of trivial entertainment, and concentrated instead on effective editing and camera movements to tell the story. Critics remarked on its similarities to UFA films in terms of framing and lighting, and it was agreed that the social content of the story was close to certain Soviet films of the period. Rey also used ideas on woman's virtue that came directly from Spanish traditions, as featured in Golden Age drama.In spite of the limited budget, La aldea maldita remains one of the most carefully photographed films of the pre-Civil War period in Spain. Shot in early 1930, its completion coincided with the introduction of sound films in Spain. Rey decided to add dialogues and sound, but synchronization and some extra shooting had to be carried out in Paris studios. Although the sound version was the only one released, it has been lost for decades and the silent version, as shot, is the only one available today.In 1942, Rey shot another sound version with different actors and more in tune with the new state ideologies: the social aspect of the film was almost gone and the melodrama tuned down. The 1942 version is unanimously regarded as far less interesting than the first one.
Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. Alberto Mira. 2010.