DREAM OF LIGHT (Sol del membrillo, El) (aka: The Sun of the Quince Tree)
(director/writer: Víctor Erice; screenwriters: from an idea from a painting by Antonio López García & Víctor Erice; cinematographer: Javier Aguirresarobe/Ángel Luis Fernández; editor: Juan Ignacio San Mateo; music: Pascal Gaigne; cast: Antonio López García, Enrique Gran, María Moreno; Runtime: 133; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Maria Moreno; Facets Video; 1992-Spain-in Spanish with English subtitles)
“The Cinematheque Ontario’s international panel voted it the best film of the 1990s, which can only lead me to question what they were smoking at the time.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Victor Erice’s (“The Spirit Of The Beehive”-1973/”El sur”-1983) third film in three decades is an understated and sober-minded documentary about Spain’s most acclaimed painter, Antonio López García, who spends September through December in 1990 painting a quince tree in his own Madrid courtyard. It’s difficult to make such a film that’s strictly about the creative process interesting throughout, and this unique slow-moving claustrophobic film proves that is the case once again despite some nice humanistic touches added in the stylish way of Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami. It won the International Critics’ Prize at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival. The Cinematheque Ontario’s international panel voted it the best film of the 1990s, which can only lead me to question what they were smoking at the time. Though I found the film curious and worth seeing, I didn’t find it all that enjoyable and worthwhile.
Garcia makes a frame, stretches his canvas, sets up an easel, drops a plumb line in order to determine the center of the painting, marks the fruit and leaves with dabs of white paint to point out their place on the grid and the meticulous craftsman studies the quince tree in his backyard and determines that it’s best to paint by the morning light even though it lasts for only two hours. He paints through the changing autumn climate, noisy building renovations, news on the radio of the impending Gulf War, and the time consuming disruptive visits from friends (a talkative artist friend, Enrique Gran, from their days in art school, Polish laborers and a visiting Chinese artist couple) and relatives. It ends with the painter’s wife, María Moreno, using him as a model, as she paints her elderly hubby as a young man stretched out on a couch. The painting is real, but nonprofessional actors mix the reality with a fictitious story (probably in an attempt to jazz things up).
It shows art as an imitation of nature’s perfection. There’s no pretense in Erice’s presentation, only an attempt to show the artist as inspired and a sincere student of life’s mysteries who is trying to capture a perfect moment in time to make it eternal.
REVIEWED ON 3/10/2006 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/