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The House of Bernada Alba Review

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Bernada Alba (Caba), newly widowed, is a matriarchal tyrant ruling a house of women — her insane mother, the servants, and five daughters, ranging in age from 39 downwards. She decrees eight years of mourning, a decree which collapses amid an outpouring o

★★★★★

Federico Garcia Lorca’s internationally renowned stageplay, a powerful indictment of the old customs of Spain that killed him - is a work tailor-made for the visual and atmospheric accessories that the cinema can furnish. With perfect understanding of this, Mario Camus, who specialises in literary adaptations, brings this hotbed of repressed passions and dark tragedy to the screen with fidelity to its spirit and style, cunningly opening it up from the confines of the one room in which it is played on the stage.

The plot is simple, the themes complex. When Bernada’s eldest daughter’s newly inherited wealth leads to her betrothal to a man some 15 years her junior, the lid comes off the boiling cauldron of repressed sexuality which haunts the five young women in varying degrees. The presence of Pedro El Romero (unseen by the audience but for a shadowy passing figure) gives flesh to their collective fantasies, unleashing jealousy, betrayal, grief, despair, lust and-finally- death.

Bernada Alba’s undiluted cruelty in a spirit which recoils from any human emotion is also a political emblem here, hinting at the ruthlessness of fascism, the repressive influence of the church and a class system that brutally banishes the “lower orders” to the status of animals. Indeed, Alba is one of the most monstrous creations to come out of European drama.

A respectable, solid film of undoubted quality that often absorbs and always interests, but which somehow never quite manages to achieve any real emotional impact.