Hierro (Spain, 2009)

Against the odds

This has a 5.6 user rating on imdb and I can only imagine that audiences, expecting a horror movie, were disappointed by the slow pace of this beautifully made film. Mostly shot on the desolate Canary island, Hierro, this Orphange-influenced mother-looking-for-son film is graced by fabulous direction by Gabe Ibanez (his first feature). Although the film retreads the brilliant Orphanage, there is plenty of mileage in the narrative. The film should be seen if only for the brilliantly constructed mise en scene which is complimented by an expressive use of framing.

Hierro is a rare film that grips from the first shot, a car being driven on an isolated road in the dark by an anxious mother with fidgety child. Generically we know there’s going to be a crash but Ibanez’s cutting to the boy’s toy car adds both foreboding and a ‘fantastic’ element to the scene (‘fantastic’ as in Todorov’s definition when it’s unclear whether events are supernatural or not).

The protagonist, Elena Anaya (familiar from Sex and Lucia) is a beguiling presence and if there are a few plot holes (why did the police let everyone off the ferry when there was a child missing?) it matters little when the direction is so riveting.

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