Oct 17, 2018
Welcome back to Worldwide Wednesday! We’re returning with another Spanish film, but this time in collaboration with France and in the Basque language. I apologize ahead of time for butchering the names. For a few other films from the Spanish film scene, check out “Veronica” (Episode #080), “Sunday’s Illness” (Episode #171), and “The Skin of the Wolf” (Episode #192). And for another European tale of folk lore that ratchets up the weird, check out “November” (Episode #157). And if you have any suggestions, let me know at onemoviepunch.com.
Today’s movie is “Errementari: The Blacksmith and The Devil” (2017), the Netflix Original film directed by Paul Urkijo Alijo, and written for the screen in collaboration with Asier Guerrciachevarría. The film recreates a famous legend of Patxi (Kandido Uranga), a blacksmith who has captured and tortures a demon in his workshop. However, when a young orphan named Usue (Uma Bracaglia) releases him, Patxi must recapture the demon before he can cause further destruction.
Back in the early days of film-making, directors and producers sought out time-honored tales and works to bring to the silver screen. And while there was a great deal of original content being produced, there were also a steady stream of adaptations of older novels, plays, religious texts, and yes, folklore and fairy tales. Fast forward a hundred years and thanks to the popularity of Disney, most folks only know folklore and fairy tales and historical stories in their sanitized forms, and I would argue most attempts to recapture the truly horrific nature of Grimm’s Fairy Tales usually fall short of capturing the underlying moral lessons to be learned, instead delighting in witches eating children or violent reprisals. And there are a whole host of European folklore and fairy tales to work with, including the story behind today’s film, a Basque fable I had never heard of before.
Urkijo retreats to the Basque highlands for his version of the fable, building the story in the mid-1800s, a time of transition for control of the region. Tensions were high between the Spanish throne and the Basque regions, which adds an additional political layer to the fairy tale, playing with the theme of who is inside and who is outside the community. The costumes and sets are all nicely done, utilizing the comparatively ancient areas to tell an ancient story, but also able to include the rising aristocracy and other period-specific factors in this tale. Overall, I thought the script and direction were great, but I did notice a few problems.
For instance, I think the film has trouble splitting the difference between maintaining the morality tale feel of a fable and including the more horrific elements of the actual fable. The lighter parts made the more profound parts of the film lack some measure of gravitas, and the heavier parts blunted the effect of some of the lighter attempts at humor. I’m also divided on the effects. The practical effects, especially the makeup for the demon Sartaei (Emeko Sagardoy) and other demons was exquisite, but the overall feel of the final scene and the special effects being used didn’t seem to mesh all that well. I felt some of the cast acted way too modern for the time period, and sometimes looked way too clean for peasant life. I don’t think any of these concerns takes away from the overall film, but I do think they blunt the overall impact on some viewers.
“Errementari: The Blacksmith and The Devil” (2017) is a Basque fairy tale brought to life in the 1800s, with a great story and direction, and mostly great visuals. Paul Urkijo Alijo delivers a solid film with a few noticeable flaws, but nothing that should prevent folks from appreciating the better elements. Fans of folklore and fables should definitely check out this film, but also anyone interested in the region at the time.
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
One Movie Punch: 7.6/10
“Errementari: The Blacksmith and The Devil” (2017) is rated TV-MA and is currently streaming on Netflix.