El Sur (1983) - full transcript

The movie tells a melancholic story of a little girl who is living in a city in the north of Spain. She is fascinated by the secrets of the south which seem to be hidden in the personality of her father.







- What's wrong, ma'am?
- My husband is gone.

And Sindbad won't stop barking.



Is that the hospital?

Is Dr Arenas there?

This is his wife.

Ma'am! Estrella's bicycle has gone!


I just wanted to know
if he spent the night there.

- Do you know where he could be?
- Yes.

If he arrives, please tell him
to call home right away.

Yes. It's very urgent.


His wife.

Thank you.

That day at sunrise,

when I found his pendulum
under my pillow,

I felt I knew

that everything had changed,

that he would never come home.


A girl.

- Are you sure?
- Of course I'm sure.

What will she be called?


They told me
that my father predicted

that I would be a girl.

It's the first thing about him
that comes to my mind,

a vivid image that,

in reality,

I had only invented.

- Want some?
- Yes.

I grew up
moving from place to place.

He was looking for a steady job.

He found it in the north,

in a city surrounded by walls

on the banks of a river.

We lived on the outskirts
in a rented house,

"The Seagull. "

It stood in no man's land

between the country and the city

beside a road that my father called

"The Border."

- We'll continue the same treatment.
- When do I get out?

I'm fed up here.

- I have to go back home.
- Very soon.

Very soon.

Just do what Sister Lucia tells you.

And relax.

Just relax.

Will you give me a ride?

It's a bit late, isn't it?

Come on! Just one.

All right. Come on, get on.


- Faster!
- All right.


Less noise, please!

Your dad's upstairs.

I didn't know.

If you bother him,
he can't do his experiments.

Estrella! What...

What did I tell you?

I dropped it.

Listen, Mum.

Why doesn't Dad want anyone
to go in the attic?

Because all the power
he keeps in there

would escape.

Of course.
That's why he locks the door?

If he lost that power,

he couldn't do any of the things he does.

Where does he get it from?

From nowhere.

It's just something he has.

Has he always had it?


Since he was born.

What about me?
Can I have it, too?

I don't know.

As you're his daughter...

I suppose so.

Would you like that?

I really would!

Right, then. Now...

go to sleep.

- Goodnight, darling.
- Goodnight, Mum.

The first thing you have to learn

is how to hold the pendulum.

Take it.

Not too tight.

Like that.

That's the way.


...close your eyes a little...

...don't think about anything.


Don't hold the chain so tight.

Let it hang loose.

That's it.
Like that.


...you do it.

Don't think about anything.


Nice and slow.

Nice and slow.

That's it.

Like that.

Very good.

Your mind completely empty.

That's it.

Very good.

Dad, it's spinning!


Stop there.

It's spinning.

- He's found it.
- Now he'll check the depth.

Now count them.

Well, have you found it?

Yes, there's water here.



How deep is it?

Each coin equals one metre.

The total will give you the depth.

Seven. Eight.

- How many coins are there?
- Eight.

- Eight metres.
- That's how deep you have to dig.

- Now we know what to do.
- It's easy, not too deep.

My dad could do things
others saw almost as miracles.

But to me,

being a part of him,

they seemed to be
the most normal things in the world.

My mother was one of the teachers

who suffered reprisals
after the Civil War.

She taught me to read and write.

Gently, going up...

...and harder going down.

A bit more.

More ink. Dip the pen.

Oh, no!

- Another blot.
- It doesn't matter. Carry on.


We would spend most of the day

yet I have few clear memories
of her from that time.

I remember her sitting by a window

in the afternoons,
sewing my dresses.

In the greenhouse,
taking care of her flowers.

On the patio,

varnishing old furniture
she got from God knows where.

And at night,

reading the novels she liked so much.

What's it like?

Very nice.

My father's origins were always
a real mystery to me.

I knew nothing about his past,

but it hardly bothered me.

What's that?


It smells so good!

We'll give some to Mum
to put in the soup.

For me, it was enough
having him by my side,

and nothing else bothered me.

The story behind this mystery

was gradually revealed to me

through my mother's words.

In the South,

it almost never snows.

What a strange place.

Listen, Mum.

Why do we never go there?

Your dad left when he was young

and never wanted to return.

Why did he leave?

He never got along
with your grandfather.

I've been told that

they fought like cats and dogs...

...that your dad was very rebellious
and your grandad bad-tempered.

So you can imagine what happened.

From the very beginning,
these stories captured my imagination...

...and I embellished them with images
I gathered from all over the place.

Not knowing
the real distances involved,

I located it all
on the other side of the globe

always with palm trees
in the background,

somewhere in the South.

Something I never understood clearly

happened to my father there.

Something that made him leave
and never go back.

One May afternoon,

the day before my first communion,
two women arrived from the South.

The seagull!

- There it is. Do you see it?
- Where?

On top of that house,
it seems to be really flying!

- Milagros, I can't see anything.
- Pepe, stop! It must be here.

Are you sure, Milagros?

If we're wrong...

I said stop the car.

I think they're here.

Go and open the door.

Does she have to make such a racket?

I'm coming.

Mum! They're here!

Now, you make sure you behave.

Where's Dad?



- Come here for a second.
- What for?

- I'll comb your hair a bit.
- But I look fine.

Please. Now come on.

Does Agustín Arenas live here?

Yes, we've been expecting you.

Pepe, start getting the luggage out.

I don't...

I don't like it parted on the side.

That's how you always wear it.

But it looks terrible!

It's better with your hair
off your face. Now stop fidgeting!

Don't forget to give
your grandmother a kiss.

OK. All right.

I know what you're like,



Agustín, my boy!

So many years,

and so many terrible things.

You've changed so much.

- Are you happy?
- Yes.

Do you really mean that?

- How's my mother?
- She's in the car.

She's not so well, because four days ago
she had a stomach ache.

It was awful,
we almost had to stay at home.

Go on, go and see her.

Estrella, my love.

You're Estrella, aren't you?

- Yes. And you're Milagros?
- That's right.

Hello, my love.

How are you?

A bit weak, but I'm fine.

And Estrella?

She's grown a lot,
you won't recognise her.

That beard

makes you look old.

Get rid of it.

And your wife?

She's fine. Let's go inside.

Yes, let's.

I can't believe
how far away this place is,

I thought we'd never get here.

Good afternoon, ma'am.

- What's your name?
- Casilda.

Would you do me a favour?

Get my walking stick from inside the car.

"The Seagull."

Did you give it that name?

No, it was called that when we arrived.


You remember me?

It's your granny!

The last time I saw you

was just after you were born.


How are you?

So-so, dear. Just so-so.

But I wanted
to see my granddaughter

taking her first communion,
so here I am!

You must be tired,
and it's getting chilly.

- Let's go in.
- Well...

- Here's your walking stick, ma'am.
- Would you help Pepe with the luggage?

You know who I'm remembering now?

- Who?
- Your father.

If only he were here.

Milagros had looked after my father
from the time he was small.

To me,
she seemed an extraordinary person.

Unlike anyone I'd ever met.

That night,
we had to sleep in the same room.

When does it start
to get warm here, dear?

It almost never gets warm here.

Doesn't it?

What a strange world we live in.

In some places,
people are roasting,

and in others,
they're freezing to death.

Well, I reckon God is old enough
to know what He's doing.

- Is it very hot where you live?
- Very hot.

- How do you cope?
- With patience and lots of shade.

Is it true there are a lot of Moors?

There are still a few,
but they're well disguised.

- What's so funny?
- You talk in a funny way.

My dad doesn't talk like that.

That's because he's a gentleman.

He's a renegade who wants
nothing to do with his home town.

Oh, don't pay me any mind.

Sometimes I prattle away and don't stop.

But I find it sad

that he won't visit
the house where he was born.

And it's been so many years
since he left!

I know.

What would you know about it, dear?

I know that my dad never went back
because he quarrelled with my grandad.

Your father told you that?

No, my mother told me.

Is it true that Grandad is a bad man?


I wouldn't go that far.

even wild animals mellow with age.

Your grandfather's changed.

With all that happened back then

and all the people who died...

And all because of their ideas.

Your grandfather's were the worst of all,
it's true.

And as your dad always thought
the opposite, he couldn't take it.

Your grandfather
would bottle things up inside,

but your dad couldn't keep quiet.

Just the opposite.

So they were
at each other all the time.

They lost all respect for each other

until one day your dad left home,

or your grandfather threw him out,
who knows?

And it has been like that ever since.

They both got caught in a dead end.

And they're still there,


But was Grandad one of the baddies?




Just so you understand.

At the time of the Republic...

Well, before the war,

your grandfather was a baddy

and your father was a goody,

but then, when Franco won,

your grandfather became a saint

and your father a demon.

You see how things are in this world?

Words, nothing but words.

But why was Dad in prison?

Because that's what
the winners in war always do.

But you're such a little girl.

- Who told you all this?
- My mother.

My goodness!

Couldn't she have found something nicer
to tell you? Or waited a little?

You have plenty of time
to learn about all that.

Look, Estrella.

You're just a little girl.

Forget about those things now

and think about
your first communion tomorrow.

One of the loveliest days
of your life.

As if you were getting married.

That's what the priest said,
but I don't understand it.

Well, me neither,

but you get to dress in white
just like a bride.

I'm never getting married.

And why not?

Brides always have a stupid look
on their face.

Just look at wedding photos
and you'll see what I mean.

Right, that's enough chit-chat.

Go to sleep!

- Don't turn it off yet.
- What's the matter?


do you think my dad
will come to church tomorrow?

Of course he will.

It's just that he never goes.

I know.

But don't you worry.

I'll get him there
if I have to drag him myself!

Now, get to sleep.

- Goodnight, Estrella, love.
- Goodnight, Milagros.

Mum, these shoes are too tight.

I told you so in the shop
and you wouldn't listen.

That's just at first, then they stretch.

Here, Julia.

Put some talcum powder in them.

And now...

the veil.

What was that?

Agustín, out shooting.

What a thing to do!

That son of mine.
He always has to be different.

There's no excuse for shooting
on a day like today.

That's just the sort of thing he does
when you least expect it.

I'm used to it.

Will he be back soon?

- Mum, will he be back soon?
- I don't know, Estrella.

She's the picture of a bride.

The things you come out with!

Do you or don't, Estrella, love?



Girls, now that you've received our Lord,

go and greet your parents.

He's here.

- Where is he?
- At the back.

If you get tired,
you can step outside,

but don't go away, OK?


He did it for me.

He did it for me.

They left after the party was over,

late in the afternoon.

From that day on,
whenever I thought of the South,

the image of those two women
would always spring to mind.

I don't remember clearly now,

but I think
it was around that time

I discovered that there was another
woman in my father's thoughts.

"Irene Ríos."

Who could Irene Ríos be?

Did she really exist?

Or was she an imaginary figure?

Why had my father written her name
so many times?

- Mum. Do you know Irene Ríos?
- No.

Who is she?

No one.

A new girl in my class.

I lied the first time
I spoke of Irene Ríos.

My mother's ignorance
made me suspect that,

behind that woman's name,

my father was hiding something
I didn't know about.

So, almost without realising,

I became his secret accomplice.

A couple of months later,

when I least expected it,

something extraordinary happened.

I discovered that
Irene Ríos did exist.

It was on a winter afternoon,
just after school.

A Flower in the Shadow


Do you have the programme?

Do you know that it's not allowed?

Yes, I know.

Here you go, then.

- Who is Irene Ríos?
- Who?

Irene Ríos. She's in this film.

Yes, here she is, you're right.

Is she the blonde or the brunette?

Carmencita Alonso is the brunette,

so Irene Ríos must be the blonde.

When does the film finish?

In half an hour.

- All right, then. Bye.
- Goodbye.



Yes, me!

Are you surprised?

I thought that...

Go on, say it.

Cards on the table!

You're wrong.
It's not what you think.

You thought I was dead,
didn't you?

That's not true. I swear it isn't.

Don't swear.
God can hear you.

You're such a fool.

It's true, I am a fool.
Which is why I love you.

Give me a light.

So. What are you doing here?

I go on in a minute,
I've no time to waste.

- I wanted to say goodbye.
- You're leaving?

No, I'm not.

But you are.

What are you talking about?

You're crazy.

That's true,

I am crazy.

I was listening for a moment
at the door.

I heard you sing our song.

We could have been so happy together.

- Happy?
- Yes, happy!

I never knew what that meant.

I was in love with her!

Dear Laura,

I'm sure you'll be surprised
to receive this letter

after such a long silence.

But I've just seen a film in which a lover

shoots you twice and sends you
to the other world.


I know that what happens in films
isn't real,

but I'm still
hopelessly superstitious

and I'd like to know if you're still here

on earth,

even under a false identity,

with that stage name you now have.

By the wax

your killer wasn't bad,

but the star and her leading man
were terrible.

Since I don't know where you are,

I'm sending this letter to Seville.

I will never forget
my father's expression when,

sitting in the Café Oriental,

he looked up from his writing

and saw me through the window.

Now I understand that he felt
as if I'd caught him red-handed,

but at the time,
I didn't realise that.

I only knew

that it seemed to me
he'd been writing a letter.

- Julia, listen to me!
- You'll wake her up!

Please, just listen!

How many times
do I have to tell you

that I don't want to hear about it!

If you want to go
and talk to her, do it!

Do whatever you want!

Just don't tell me anything about it.

Nothing at all!

It's not like that.

You're wrong, Julia.

The idea I'd had of my father

started to change.

It was like opening my eyes
and suddenly discovering

that I knew very little about him.

Dear Agustín.

Eight years ago,

I decided never to expect
anything from you.

I was so lonely then.

Much more
than you could have guessed.

It wasn't easy,

but, gradually, I managed it.

In all that time, I heard nothing from you.

It was to be expected.

Things had become very difficult between


there were others for whom you cared
more than you did for me.

I understood.

I tried to accept it
and it helped me.

I don't understand this letter of yours
that I just received.

Why, Agustín, after so much time?

Why write to me?

To see if I'm still alive?

Well, yes, I am.

But what else?

I can't believe it's because of
the cinema magic you referred to.

Magic that, I don 't know if you know,

I had to give up
more than a year ago.

I searched high and low,

but I never found that place.

You remember?

The place you'd never want to leave?

I wonder if that place
ever really existed.

So, here I am.

Home again.

The past doesn't move me
as it did before,

and above all,

I don't want to
keep thinking about it.

I try to look ahead,

and I'm afraid that,

at last,
I've grown up.

I've worked on four films
but without much luck.

In three of them, they sent me
to the other world, as you put it,

in nasty ways.

Killed by bullets, as you saw,

with a silk stocking
and even with a barber's razor.

By the way,

which way would you have chosen?

Forgive me, I was just joking.

I wasn't talking about me,

but about the femme fatale you wrote to.

Poor Irene Ríos,
may she rest in peace.

She can't answer you.

And I,
in doing it for her,

may have fallen into a trap
without realising it.

I do remember the past

and you with your jokes in dubious taste.

You're to blame.

The things you write.

To sum up,
what do you want from me?

Perhaps you'd better
not answer that question.

It's not worth it.

Just forget about it.

I would rather
you didn't write to me.

Answering you is such an effort.

Time is the most ruthless
angel of justice I've known.

And though I'm now a grown-up,


especially at night,

I am afraid.



It was the first time that Dad had left
home in the middle of the night

without a word to anyone.

It's time!

The train is leaving!

He came back in the morning.

No one heard him come in.

He must have used the back door,

very quietly,

so as not to wake us.

- Mum?
- What?

What's wrong with Dad?

Why are you asking?

He's acting strange.

Haven't you noticed?


A little.

Ever since he left home,
he's been like that.

He didn't leave.

Estrella, the things you say...

It's true, he did leave.

Don't say that, you hear me?


what do you know?

I do know.
And so do you.


From that day on,

my father never used
the pendulum again.

One afternoon,

tired of the atmosphere at home,

I wanted to protest in my own way.

I hid under a bed,

determined not to come out.

When they missed me,

my mother and Casilda
looked everywhere for me.



From my hiding place,

I challenged them
with my silence.

I could tell that they were
getting more worried.


Little by little,

night began to fall.

I knew my father was at home.

I waited the whole time
for him to call me,

but he never did.

He responded to my silence
with his own.

And I suddenly understood

that he was playing my game,

accepting my challenge,

to show me that his pain

was much greater than mine.

- Estrella.
- What?

Why are you crying?

Because I want to!

I started wishing
with all my heart

that I could grow

and suddenly be an adult

so I could get
far away from there.

I grew up more or less
like everyone else,

getting used to being alone

and to not thinking
too much about happiness.

Dearest Estrella.

Your letter was lovely.

We read it so many times.

Is everything you wrote true?

I wish I could see you here someday.

I won't recognise you!

Here is a photo of
your grandma and me in Rome,

when we went to see the Pope.

Isn't it nice?

Lots of love to everyone,

and for you,
a big kiss from me!

- What's for dinner?
- Soup and fried fish.

Again? It's always the same.

What do you expect,
the way your mum is?

- Hasn't she got up?
- No.

Did you see
what they painted on the wall?


Well, what did they paint, then?

- Again.
- Again.

Don't laugh, it's not funny.

I know who did it.

So do I.

- How are you?
- Well, you know, the same.

I thought I'd be able to get up,
but I felt sick.

Have you eaten?

No. Not yet.

Don't wait for Dad.

He'll be late.


- What?
- The phone!

Will you pick this up for me
from the chemist?

Don't forget.

I hardly slept last night.

- Estrella!
- Coming!

Casilda will give you the money.

- Who is it?
- Who do you think? Same as usual.

El Carioco.

- Tell him I'm not here.
-You tell him!

Go away!

What do you want?

Nothing, just to talk to you.

This morning, I waited for an hour.

- Where were you ?
- I went the opposite way.

Weren't we going to meet?

I know we said we'd meet, but...

Didn't you want to see me?

- No.
- Why not?

Because I'm sick of you,

and all the stuff
you keep writing on the walls.

Who do you think you are?

Me? Whoever you want me to be.

You invite me to the cinema,

you take me to the park,

you give me a kiss...

So what?

What do you mean, so what?

Estrella, you've got me all wrong!

You don't know me.

You don't know what I'm capable of.

You know why the girls
call me "El Carioco"?

If you don't,
you'll soon find out!


You're leaving already?

If not, I'll be late.



This is from Milagros.

You can read it.

After school,

when the lights came on

and there was still
a faint glow in the sky,

I liked to walk alone, slowly,

through the streets of the city.

I never forgot Irene Ríos.

I kept looking for her on film posters.

But I never saw her name again.

It was as if the earth
had swallowed her up.

I often passed by
a photography studio.

In the window,

among the photos of couples,
communions and soldiers,

was my portrait.

Can you give me a light?


Most nights, before going to sleep,

I would write in my diary.

Today, when I read
the pages from those days,

I see just how much I'd accepted

my father's crises

as an irremediable fact
of daily life.

Maybe that's why

there's nothing in what I wrote

that warned of
what would happen later.

And yet my father did something back

he had never done before.

He came to pick me up
one day after school

and took me to lunch
at the Grand Hotel.

That autumn day,
a wedding was being celebrated

in one of the hotel salons.

Hurrah for the band!

Hurrah for the wedding!

Hurrah for
the bride and the groom!

- I saw you this morning.
- Where?

You walked past the Oriental
with a boy.

Oh, yes... Miguel.

They call him "El Carioco."
He's a little crazy.

Is he dangerous?

He just writes on walls.

Oh, yes.

I think I've seen one of his murals.

He's a real pain.

Is what he writes true?

I don't know.

He says so.

But I think he does it
to get attention.

But it's nice, isn't it?

Wanting attention?

Telling the world

what you think.

Well, it depends...

I'd like to be able to.

Why don't you?

Because I'm not "El Carioco."

You realise
we never talk seriously?

And that's my fault, is it?

I suppose so.

Mind if I order another drink?

Go ahead.

Why do you drink so much?

Are you telling me off?

No. It's just a question.

Here's your coffee.

- And cognac.
- Thank you.

- Why did you bring me here?
- I don't know.

I thought you might like it.

I do. But why else?

I wanted to make peace with you.

- But we haven't...
- I know, this time we haven't quarrelled.


The other night,
when you got back late,

I don't think I behaved well.

- Don't you want to ask me anything?
- No.

But I would like
to ask you so many things.

Ask away.

- No, it's all right.
- No, no, ask me.

There is one thing.

Perhaps it's a bit silly.

I've always wanted to ask you
but never had the nerve.

Who was Irene Ríos?

Irene Ríos?

The actress.

- You knew her, didn't you?
- No.

I knew a woman
who was a lot like her.

But I didn't know Irene Ríos.

What a let-down.


Why did you write her name
on a piece of paper?

Did I do that?

Yes, don't you remember?


I remember.

Once I found a piece of paper,

one of your envelopes,

on which you'd written her name
over and over.

It seemed a bit strange.

I didn't know who she was.

Neither did Mum.

Then one day, I saw her name
on a film poster.

A Flower in the Shadows.

I saw it.

Was it good?

I left before it finished.

I know.

That evening,
I was walking past the cinema

and I saw your motorbike.

So I thought,
"I bet he's inside."

I waited for you outside, hiding.

It was so cold.

I saw you walk out

and I followed you down the street

until you went
into the Café Oriental.

I could see
you were writing a letter.

Then I knocked on the window.

You remember?
You took me home on your motorbike.

That's right.

I'll be right back.

- Would you like anything else?
- No, thank you.

How's the wedding?

Just like all the others.

Keep it.

Thank you.

- I have to go.
- Already?

- It's time.
- What class do you have?

- French.
- Won't it keep till another day?

Do you really want me to play truant?

- Yes.
- Really?


I don't understand you.

And when you were just so high,

didn't you understand me then, either?

That has nothing to do with it, Dad.


Do you remember that paso doble?

You don't remember.

It's called "In the World".

We danced to it together.


The day of my first communion.

I'm going.

Are you staying?

- Yes.
- Bye, then.

You be careful with that 'El Carioco'!

Thank you.

I left him there,
sitting by the window,

listening to that old paso doble,


left to his fate.

Could I have done more for him
than I did at that moment?

I have always asked myself that.

Because that was the last time
I ever spoke to him.

Before leaving the house,

he emptied his pockets.

Among the things he left in a drawer

was a small telephone receipt.

That's how I found out

that the last night of his life,

my father had called the South,

a number I did not recognise.

I took that piece of paper

and kept it without telling anyone.

Why are you sleeping up here?

I was cold.

Why don't you get into your own bed?

It's not made.

- Come on. I'll make it for you.
- Don't bother.

It won't take a second.

A few days later, I fell ill.

Alone, shut away in my bedroom,

the hours were interminable.

Your things
are always all over the place!

- What time is it?
- Nearly midday.

- I'm getting up.
- Don't you dare!

You know what your mother said.

- But I'm better!
- Stay there and don't move!

From the South, the voice of Milagros
came to my rescue.

Once she found out what had happened,

it didn't take much for her
to persuade my mother

to let me spend some time
down there to recuperate.

Her arguments were sound.

I needed a change of climate
for my health.

And also,
neither she nor Grandma Rosario

had seen me in along time.

The night before I left,

I could hardly sleep.

Estrella, the taxi is here!

Although I didn't show it,

I was very nervous...

...because, at last,

I was going to see the South.