Galicia is a region famed for its rich history, proud and diverse culture, its jaw-dropping landscapes and the beauty of it scenery, so it is of little wonder that its setting is the backdrop for many a film and that so many directors and producers have chosen to chronicle its many stories and to relay its colourful past on the big screen.
Many of the movies set and filmed in Galicia are home grown and there are a great many Spanish and Galician classic motion pictures that take place in this beautiful, haunting and spirited region. But there has been a recent increase in foreign films and even Hollywood productions that have been inspired by the character, charm and historical tales of this unique area of Spain.
Lena, released in 2001 is a coming of age teen drama mixed with some pistol whipping, gangster action set in an unnamed decaying Galician fishing town. The film tells the story of Lena, an eighteen-year-old girl, struggling to survive in the poverty and destitution of this once thriving shipbuilding and fishing community that has fallen on hard times. She dreams of leaving the town and her hard drinking father behind her to study abroad but, when she returns one day to find him severely beaten, she offers herself to the Mafiosi and begins to work for them to repay his debts. What ensues is an action packed, dramatic tale of romance, dreams and crime. Whilst Lena is a villainous tale of none too likable drug runners, the phenomenal performance of the protagonist, played by Marta Larralde, makes the movie a compelling piece of drama and it is well worth watching for the fabulous landscape shots alone. The cinematography beautifully captures the Galician coastline with wonderful aerial shots and one cannot help but fall in love with the picturesque scenery of this stunning region.
Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside) starring Spanish Oscar winner and heartthrob, Javier Bardem, recounts the true story of Ramon Sampedro, who fought a thirty year campaign in favour of euthanasia, battling for his own right to die. Sampedro, a fisherman and part-time poet suffered a catastrophic road accident aged only 26, leaving him a bedridden quadriplegic. The movie catches up with him when Ramon, now 54, is a man who depends on his family to survive and has come to view his life as pointless, frustrating and a burden to others. He wishes to die with what little he has left of his dignity and we follow the dramatic enfolding of legal, moral and ethical debates and heartache as he pursues his path in taking his life. A collaboration by two of the most talented figures in contemporary Spanish cinema; actor Bardem and director Alejandro Amenábar, The Sea Inside is a wonderfully crafted film with heartbreaking performances and a keen insight into both the strength and frailty of the human spirit.
These two diverse and fascinating films, all set in Galicia, portray different periods in history, covering different subjects and are of varying genres and moods, and yet one common element resounds in all of them – the triumph of the human spirit.
Galicia has long been an inspiration to many artists, musicians and sculptors for its beauty, its character and its vitality and, as these films demonstrate, the irrepressible spirit of its people!