Even the Rain Dir. Icíar Bollaín

[Vitagraph Films; 2011]

Styles: drama, socioplotical commentary
Others: Take My Eyes, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Day for Night

Filmmakers that play with or comment on the nature of filmmaking by actually making a film about making a film are always going to run the risk of producing overly self-aware and boring ruminations on how time-consuming and frustrating/rewarding it is to make a movie. While these types of films are of great interest to those in the audience who want to make movies themselves, they often lack the kind of depth or context that would make their hyper-real aesthetics less a neat quirk and more a necessary element of a cohesive vision. The narrative pitfalls beleaguering these films are vast and numerous — so vast and numerous that it’s a wonder so damn many of them are made. However, when someone gets it right, it sure is a real treat.

In Even the Rain, director Icíar Bollaín (Take My Eyes) and writer Paul Laverty (The Wind That Shakes the Barley) focus their attention on a Spanish film crew making a movie about Spain’s most famous explorer/exploiter in one of the most tragically and continuously hamstringed of Spain’s former colonies. We discover that the crew is filming the story of the historically relevant conflict between Christopher Columbus and Bartolomé de las Casas in and around Cochabamba, Bolivia because it’s mad cheap (they can pay the indigenous cast $2 a day). The irony of making a movie that’s harshly critical of a man who subjugated a local population while in turn subjugating a local population is not meant to be Even the Rain’s hook, as it’s so obvious a correlative that Laverty opts to leave any mention of it out of his script. I’m fairly certain many will see this correspondence between modern and antiquated colonialism as a lazy, totally hackneyed plot device, but I think that would be missing the point entirely. The real hook of the film lies in the relationship between the film’s leftist-idealist director Sebastián (Gael Garcia Bernal) with his crass and entirely materialistic producer Costa (Luis Tosar).

While Sebasián and Costa argue over the logistics of filming colossal sequences involving hundreds of local, indigenous extras, the IRL Cochabamba Water Protests break out. When their star native actor, Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri, in a remarkably nuanced breakout performance), is arrested for protesting a multinational company that has bought out the population of Bolivia’s water rights — even their rights to collect rainwater — from under them, the true character of the director and producer are brought to the fore. The relatively surprising ways in which Sebastián and Costa react to realities that surround their film are what propels Even the Rain beyond a mere browbeating of Western Europe for being such assholes back in the day.

The subject matter of Even the Rain is so obvious, the colonialism it condemns so prone to sensationalism and moralizing. Yet Laverty, Bollaín, and company transcend the obvious, easy circumstances of their story to thoroughly delve into individual reactions to very real exploitation. And this transcendence, this ability to find the genuinely human and genuinely individual in the midst of grand conflict is what gives the film its depth and breadth. The performances are compelling without exception, but it’s Laverty’s script, informed by a previous, uncompleted collaboration with Howard Zinn, that supplies the multifaceted characters that allow for such compelling performances. It’s extremely refreshing to see a well-wrought film whose writing, above all else, accounts for its greatness.

Most Read