At the beginning, everything, except for the landscape, seems to fit into the day-to-day routine. There are vertiginous mountains, windy roads, streams of molten lava, charming rounded volcanoes and in the distance, shining down below, a vast ocean, filled with thousands of years of light. There is a man of disproportionate stature riding a bike. And another man pushing a wheelbarrow down towards a terrace where he unloads stones. Then there’s a young man getting dressed, making his bed and sweeping the pavement. There’s a young woman who cuts the stems of flowers to make a bouquet. And there’s a woman, behind a window, looking at the washing hanging, the vastness of the sea behind it, and the large sink for washing clothes. Then there is the cemetery, its white walls rising out of black lava, and the family offering flowers to the father who has passed away. They are Agustín and Carmelo and Vicente and Mary, and their mother Milagros. And this is the sea. And these are the mountains. And that’s them in their house, in the north of the island. As the camera portrays them, one after the other, each straying gaze turns into a question. A gaze which is slowly beginning to understand what is happening: that something was missing, that there was something else, in each of the siblings. Thus, daily life, the continuous flow of time, from one meal to the next, the long hours spent working the land, the wait for the bus, the shopping, the visits to the social services, become an exception. Gradually the mountains, the sea, the earth and the air will reveal the story. They will guide us to the fire of common life, where almost everything that takes place has the status of a miracle.
Her gaze makes up complex portraits, filled with life’s utmost intensity, and with the difficulty, serenity and deep sadness of a woman who has managed to turn her misfortune into a kind of dignity, for every day that passes. She can thus look at us in the eyes and question us. She exudes a palpable melancholy which has the capacity to make her appear sombre in her solitude, but which transforms into serene vitality and kindness in society.
He works, works and works. He is one of those people who seems to enjoy solitude and focusing on the task at hand. He looks after the earth, the walls, the repairs. He is always silent and entirely focused on what he has to do. He is shy. He does not play as much of a part in the family life, perhaps because he seems to be the most mature and also the one who is most aware of what the family needs.
Sporty and of an enormous stature, he tends to be away from the home and from family life. He relates a lot with people, both at work and in his daily life. We see him in the bar, watching a football match on television, being part of the church community. We see him on his bike, flying along, playing basketball. He looks at the camera powerfully with the conviction of someone who knows what he wants.
She is the sunshine in the house, always smiling and happy. She likes to have a chat with her mother, her brothers and her friends. In the day centre, she appears to be the drive behind many of the activities and the core who attracts many of the members and the affection. She accompanies Milagros on her errands: taking money out, doing the shopping, going to the hairdressers. She bursts out laughing at parties.
He is the most removed from reality. His gaze seems to drift to a nearby world. He is the most childish, the most delicate. He gets dressed, has breakfast, and goes to wait for the bus, he waves at the cars. He works slowly and meticulously. He looks at the camera with the honesty of a young child. He spends his time with Mary and Milagros. He does chores in the house and looks after the dogs.
Milagros is, above all, a powerful exercise of observation, which slowly transforms into a beautiful ode to life. For David Baute, this documentary film represents the recovery of an author’s discourse in which the film language reduces to such an extent that it becomes a magnificent window that looks out on reality whilst barely intervening in it. It is the cinematic language found in Rosario Miranda, his debut feature, and which reappears here to show that the author of Ella(s), Fetasiano and La Murga, has an exceptionally expressive talent and a creative maturity which enable him to take on cultural documentaries, films that follow reality, or the smooth profiles of cinema in which reality and fiction are intertwined.
A mature film in which the narrative discourse adopts new formulas: there is a way of telling a story in which things and actions are not directly related through presence, but rather through significant nuclei which respond to the structure of semantic families. Layer after layer, sediment after sediment, we enter the life of this unique family until we become an integral part of it.
To achieve this, Baute works with simple photography, with thoroughly constructed frames, in a learned grammar that creates clearly marked rhythms between wider and closer shots. Furthermore, Baute does not hesitate to use a genre as difficult as the portrait; throughout the film, the family, both as a collective and individually, will look at the camera and create with it a material or a physical psychology. There are still two fundamental elements for the construction of the film. On the one hand, there is the silence which increases from rock to rock. It is a documentary that one must contemplate and not only watch. The sound profile: the winds, the branches, the rustling, the dogs barking, the passing car, are as important as the dialogues, because here, hearing is a calm conversation with the world.
Finally, David Baute uses the insular landscapes, the raw lights, the mountains, the landforms, the ravines, the endless roads, the sunsets, the street lights that are lit up, as if they were another character. They are counterpoints, spaces of confrontation, which are included in the film for the viewer to understand that the human being is a construction of discourse before nature. The landscape’s solitude and the winter light are the opposing systems that the director creates for us, to enclose the family within it, to construct the interior paradise, almost by miracle.
Direction and script
Live sound and music
ALEJANDRO LÁZARO / CLARA M. MALAGELADA
PATRICIA ESTEVEZ / LAURA G. CORREDERA
Translation and subtitles