Director Montxo Armendariz, whose new film Broken Silence is also featured in this programme, achieved his biggest success with this Oscar-nominated coming-of-age tale set in a rural farming village in the early 1960s. Nine-year-old Javi (Andoni Erburu) and his older brother Juan (Alvaro Nagore) live with their aunts, ostensibly because they can attend the local school. During the holidays the brothers return to their village in the mountains, where slowly they discover there is more to the relationship between their mother and their uncleoand the tragic death of their fatherothan meets the eye.
Armendariz views events through the inquiring eyes of Javi, and much of the film’s success derives from the natural, charming performance of the young Erburu. Javi is lied to about the death of his father and almost everything to do with sex. As a young boy, it seems that he must be protected from the harsh facts of life. Javi’s search for answers forms the basis of this beautifully observed film, which inevitably evokes memories of Victor Erice’s Spirit of the Beehive. While not in the same class, Secrets of the Heart is still a considerable achievement. Armendariz has made a delicate and subtle work that captures the terrors and pleasures of childhood’s end and presents a vivid, revealing portrait of the Franco era.
1997. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 105 mins.