Carmen (film)

Carmen is one of Carlos Saura’s flamenco trilogies alongside Bodas de Sangre (Bloody Wedding) and El Amor Brujo. Set in 1980s Spain, the film follows the development of the opera Carmen performed by a flamenco dance company in almost a documentary-like style. 

The film spends considerable time showing the beautiful inter-mingling of the delicate and seductive opera, Carmen, accompanied by the fierce and soulful energy of the flamenco dance and songs. It contains numerous scenes of flamenco performances and provides a glimpse into the flamenco culture as a traditional Spanish art form. The stomping heels, castanets and hand movements are amazing to watch and gets you clapping in your seat (if you’re that way inclined). So if you’re not into rhythm and dances, this film might not be for you.

I also loved the minimalist yet colourful costumes dancers wear in the film. As most of the film is set in rehearsals the dancers were not in full glitzy costumes, which can be a bit distracting, but in simple lycra outfits decorated with a volumous skirt or a drapey scarf.

The protagonist is the director of the dance company Antonio. He auditioned dozens of women, each determined to find the perfect dancer to play Carmen and he thinks he finally has. He hires Carmen. a woman of the same name as the character in the opera; a woman of mystery who seems to have no moral qualms, and is as free as a bird. He falls in love with her and he wants her to be his own. These themes of love, possession and jealousy reverberate in between the opera and the reality of Antonio’s life.

The emotions Antonio uses to perform so successfully in opera meld into his true emotions. Slowly he becomes the character and is unable to control his feelings, spiraling into a confused state between the opera and reality, which is reminiscent of the second half of the film Black Swan.

At this point the film becomes abstract as the viewers can no longer tell whether its real or the opera: exactly like how Antonio is feeling. While some viewers may find this frustrating and demand answers, I thought it was the most natural way to portray the tragic end.

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