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Thursday, October 18, 2012 (read 1429 times)

Spanish films: Lo Imposible

by Lauren Simmonds

Yesterday, I went to the Cinebox Vialia in Salamanca to see what can only be described as the most harrowing film I’ve ever seen. The film was directed by the Spanish film director Juan Antonio Bayona, and the subject was the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. This natural disaster was caused by the Indian Ocean earthquake and killed almost 5000 people. The film concentrates on a family of five: a mum and a dad and their 3 sons. It doesn’t take long for the main event to unfold: the film begins with the family at the swimming pool and they see the wave more or less straight away. The film succeeded in making me feel sick to my stomach. I even contemplated walking out a couple of times. I am not usually a squeamish person but the images of the angry waters throwing bodies around so forcefully, pieces of debris tearing their flesh, was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

The terrifying sounds of the surging water and the gasps of people, including very young children as they were sucked under by the powerful current was accentuated due to the size of the screen.  The bloody curdling screams of the mother as she realizes that her husband and sons are all gone, cut through my heart like a knife. Eventually, after struggling in the water and eventually finding a palm tree and an old mattress to hang onto, the eldest son and the mother spot each other. For the most part of the film, we as viewers witness the battle of these two to stay alive – plus an adorable little boy who they find along the way. We are not given any information about the two younger brothers or the husband until much later in the film and some viewers, me included, may conclude that they are dead.

There are some scenes in this Spanish film which trick the viewer into thinking they are watching a war film: the only thing that is worse than seeing piles of dead bodies on the back of trucks is thinking that this film is based on truth. When mother and son are walking to shore (having been sucked out to sea by the tide), the viewer sees through the eyes of the child that the mother is severely injured. When the tsunami struck, she was standing by a glass panel which tore her body to ribbons. She has two gaping wounds – one in the back of her leg and another in her breast. These images are truly sickening for that they are so realistic. The son struggles to look at his own mother and I found myself hiding my face behind my hands whenever the camera pointed in her direction.

Having known nothing about the Tsunami before watching the film, I now have some idea of the tragedy and the mass devastation that it caused. Some bird’s-eye views of the beach and the surrounding area make the viewer aware that it was a miracle for anyone to make it out alive. The family whose story is recreated for this film eventually becomes reunited and unbelievably, the only member of the family who is seriously injured is the mother. The closing scene of the film shows the family onboard a flight to Singapore where the mother will receive medical treatment. We are allowed to assume that she makes a full recovery due to a picture at the end of the real family all together.

Despite opting to watch “Lo Imposible” in Spanish – not my first language – I feel that this film really drew me in because it was both amazingly visual and it made use of a carefully chosen soundtrack. I feel that this film engaged with me more than both “The Titanic” and “The Twin Towers”, both of which are highly distressing films based on horrific and true events. However, whilst watching “Lo Imposible”, I forgot that I was in the cinema and became totally drawn in to the catastrophe unfolding before my eyes.

Keywords: lo imposible,spanish films,tsunami 2004,movie tsunami,asian tsunami 2004


1 » Stan Ríos (on Friday, October 19, 2012) said:

Very good review! Well written, the author has obvious talent. Well done Lauren Simmonds!

2 » Natalie (on Saturday, October 20, 2012) said:

More than 230,000 people died in fourteen countries during the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.

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