Star rating – 6/10
Pa Negre (Black Bread) is another film in the Viva festival at the Cornerhouse. It is a dark, verging on morose, drama about a Catalan family’s dark secrets during the Spanish Civil War. It won a hatful of Goyas (the Spanish equivalent of the BAFTAs), when it was released there in 2010.
Director Agusti Villaronga doesn’t flinch from graphic, shocking violence from the off – you have been warned. A young boy, Andreu, very convincingly and memorably played by Francesc Colomer, discovers a tragic accident in the woods near his home, the repercussions of which come to haunt his whole family. He initially thinks it is the work of a notorious ghoul lurking in the woods, but then begins to suspect that his Republican father has had a hand in the affair.
The plot is intricate, and difficult to keep up with at times, with a few characters that feel a bit like cul de sacs. Its pace is a little too slow to be entirely satisfying, and it would have benefitted from a bit sharper editing to make its point. There seem to be little redeeming features about any of the characters, and maybe that is the message, that the war drove people to do terrible things that they would not have contemplated under normal circumstances.
The acting is accomplished all round, and the rural Catalan settings are beautiful, but tragedy lurks in every face and around every corner and it’s not an easy watch.