Beware of rustic harm
THE NIGHT OF THE SUNFLOWERS/ LA NOCHE DE LOS GIRASOLES Directed by Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo. Starring Carmelo Gómez, Judith Diakhate, Celso Bugallo, Manuel Morón, Mariano Alameda, Vicente Romero 16 cert, Screen, Dublin, 123 min
THE discovery of a young woman’s body in a field is the starting point of Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo’s engrossing thriller, set in an isolated rural town in northern Spain. The director’s cleverly constructed screenplay explores the consequences through six overlapping chapters in which events are observed from different perspectives.
The first introduces a commercial traveller (Manuel Morón) peddling industrial vacuum cleaners and watching TV coverage of the murder investigation. In the small town of Angosto, there is excitement at the discovery of a prehistoric cave, which the mayor hopes will attract tourism and revitalise the area. A geologist (Carmelo Gómez) arrives to examine the cave, accompanied by his fiancee (Judith Diakhate) and a photographer (Mariano Alameda). And the local police chief (Celso Bugallo) is planning his retirement – and disapproving of his daughter’s relationship with his deputy (Vicente Romero) – when there is a second killing.
Consistently playing against genre expectations, the movie is not formed as a conventional whodunnit, being more concerned with charting the behaviour of its diverse protagonists as their fates intersect and they are faced with serious moral dilemmas. In that respect, it gains immeasurably in dramatic power by revisiting key events from different points of view. Parallel to its exposure of moral decay is a doleful reflection on rural communities dying from depopulation.
Establishing an ominous atmosphere from the outset and working with a well-chosen cast, writer-director Sánchez-Cabezudo makes a thoroughly assured feature film debut with this thoughtful, imaginative and intricately structured drama that proves satisfyingly tantalising – which is appropriate for a movie in which one of the main themes is the deceptiveness of appearances.
The Night of the Sunflowers is not a conventional whodunnit