The directorial debut of Jonathan Cenzual Burley, El Alma de las Moscas (The Soul of Flies, 2010) is a charming and surreal Spanish indie comedy. Two brothers meet for the first time in front of an abandoned railway station at which they are waiting for a train. The death of their wandering father has brought them together and, after realising that the train is not coming, instigates a journey across the barren Spanish countryside to his funeral. After deciding to embark on this oddball odyssey, half-brothers Miguel (Javier Saez) and Nero (Andrea Calabrese) traverse the rural landscape by any means necessary to reach the funeral.
The serious Miguel embarks on the trip grudgingly, wanting only to confirm that his father is dead, whilst the somewhat more fanciful Nero is delighted to find he has a sibling who might temper his perpetual loneliness. Along their way, the two meet a variety of random and quirky strangers some of whom are funnier and more engaging than others.
Blending dreams and reality, Cenzual Burley’s magical realist El Alma de las Moscas does manage – for the majority of its runtime – to be genuinely funny. This is particularly the case in the difficult relationship of Miguel and Nero, with the former not in any way keen to forge a bond during their travels. Nero however, has other ideas and looks to Miguel for companionship as he is left with unfulfilled fantasies of his dream girl; a young woman dancing in a field whilst Post-it notes swirl all around her. Death plays a prominent part in the proceedings but the whimsical tone and the leads’ deadpan delivery in the face of absurdity means that humour can be found even in darker places.
The episodic nature does, sadly, reduce the impact of the brothers relationship with one another and their father. Whilst we are aware of their individual journeys, the lack the weight that they might have commanded with the filmmakers preferring to concentrate on the aforementioned whimsy. With some of their latter encounters beginning to test the audience’s patience, Cenzual Burley may have been advised to bring together his characters arcs in a more concentrated way.
The visual style of the film means that it’s always a pleasure to watch, with the landscape and composition complementing the feel of the film. It is clearly shot on a low budget and bringing the film together is admirable in itself. With a little more money and a little less whimsy, El Alma de las Moscas could have been even more of a success, but it signals that better may lie ahead from Cenzual Burley.
El Alma de las Moscas is available to own now on DVD. Order from Amazon here.