By Mónica Delgado

The film opens with a map of past times. The sea will be the character and element which orders and reorders the world: a man will enter its waters, only to return to the land a series of lost bodies. Lúa vermella is a film where the sea is also a ghostly being that frightens and feeds, shelters and repels, but above else, an entity whose matter could embody in its fury or depths, some passages of the characters of a town in their fight against the inevitable.

In Lois Patiño’s Lúa Vermella, premiered at Berlinale Forum, we find several elements that are trademark of his filmography style, and why not, of Galician cinema itself. Not only do echoes of previous works by Patiño appear, but also some reminiscences of style with, saving the distances, Eloy Enciso’s Arrianos or Longa Noite. Fixed shots of perfect composition that are cemented by the reflections of their characters, almost imaginations which become matter of memory and present, of tradition and modernity, of life in a stable relationship with death.

One could think there’s an evident wink to Sergio Caballero’s Finisterrae from the clothes of some characters, but unlike the 2010 film, in this new film there’s no room for mockery, satire or pastiche. Even more, what Patiño proposes is a revitalization of a Celtic myth in Gallic lands, the “Santa Compaña”; beings of the hereafter that walk barefoot, covered with sheets, without any specific purpose, in silence, through the woods and paths of Galicia. This resource becomes a transit metaphor in every sense, of resistance to disappearing, where en and woman pass to a different state while stories of shipwrecks and anonymous heroes are heard from languid voices.

Patiño stops again in the territories of Costa da Morte, like if those medieval tales had still some space in his phantasmagoria and illusion in the middle of the XXI century, in the possibility of myths being organizers of existence or justifications of metaphysical nature. Myths for something that cannot be explained. But beyond this, the space or territory, under this red light, will be covered in some way by this imaginary veil, that places it in a limbo, in a sort of stylized and impassive Comala.

One can feel a touch of deja vu in Lúa vermella, in relation to other works of the filmmaker, from Costa da morte to the nocturnities of Montaña en sombra, for example. But there’s something different here, and it has to do with some sort of sophistication in the treatment of the image, since Patiño no longer requires the observation of landscapes or the duration of time in the scenes to show this transit, instead appealing to other type of visual form to find the ungraspable of this passing from life to death. There’s a scene where Patiño shoots it in a perfect way: the face of a woman in close-up , while she’s covered unexpectedly with this white sheet that indicates that she’s no longer with us. Death as impact.

Berlinale Forum
Directing, script, cinematgraphy: Lois Patiño
Editing: Pablo Gil Rituerto, Óscar de Gispert, Lois Patiño
Sound design: Juan Carlos Blancas
Production design: Nati Juncal
Art director: Jaione Camborda
Sound: Aníbal Menchaca
Costumes: Judith Adataberna
Executive producer: Zeitun Films – Felipe Lage
Co-producer: Amanita Films – Iván Patiño
Spain, 2020, 84 min