×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Visionaries

Spanish veteran Manuel Gutierrez Aragon's "Visionaries," set during the transition in the 1930s from religious rule to a secular state, hitches a doomed love story to a widely debated episode in which Basque Country villagers claimed to see apparitions of the Virgin Mary.

With:
Joshe - Eduardo Noriega
Usua - Ingrid Rubio
Carmen Molina - Emma Suarez
Governor - Fernando Fernan-Gomez
Father Laburu - Karra Elejalde
Edurne - Leire Ucha

Spanish veteran Manuel Gutierrez Aragon’s “Visionaries,” set during the transition in the 1930s from religious rule to a secular state, hitches a doomed love story to a widely debated episode in which Basque Country villagers claimed to see apparitions of the Virgin Mary. But while the high-profile cast and polished production values tag this historical drama as a prestige picture, its lifelessly reverential approach, lack of emotional engagement and failure of the central romance to conjure any lasting resonance will limit commercial prospects beyond Spain.

Premiered at the San Sebastian fest, the drama opens, quite appropriately, with a striking scene on the town’s La Concha beach as seaside revelers are interrupted by a dour procession of religious protesters. The latter lament the government’s removal of all religious imagery from schools and public buildings, chanting, “A state without religion is a state without a soul.”

In this climate, the reverberations of the apparitions in the tiny hill town of Ezkioga have a heightened impact. A young man training to be a teacher, Joshe (Eduardo Noriega), travels to the village each week to visit his fiancee, Edurne (Leire Ucha). His first encounter with Usua (Ingrid Rubio), a maid at the local inn, sparks a powerful, reciprocal attraction, however. Both girls claim to have seen the nightly visions of the Virgin in a hillside clearing. But while Edurne’s supposed sightings are exposed as the product of an impressionable mind, Usua remains steadfast in her convictions, relaying the Madonna’s message that Spain must repent to avoid war and chaos.

Gutierrez Aragon plods through the mounting hysteria over the Madonna sightings with no significant acceleration of dramatic momentum, keeping it absorbing but rather flat. Having established a potentially rich departure point from which to explore the theme of mass delusion, the writer-director fails to bring much insight or analysis to his account of the events.

Biggest problem, however, is the sappy romantic leads. Noriega, usually fine in edgier, more contemporary roles, is saddled with some regrettable dialogue (“It’s me or the Virgin!”), failing to convey the conflict of a man torn between love and the certainty his inamorata is fooling herself. Rubio is unconvincing in both religious-rapture and lovestruck modes, while, in a role with no clear function, Emma Suarez makes little impression as a glamorous socialite who adopts the Ezkioga believers as her personal cause.

Fernando Fernan-Gomez brings a welcome note of sly humor to his brief scenes as the state governor.

Some reward is provided by Hans Burmann’s polished widescreen lensing of the Basque countryside locations and of coastal San Sebastian’s glittering splendors.

Visionaries

Spain

Production: An AltaFilms release of an Aiete-Ariane Films/Sogecine production with participation of ICAA, Basque Government, Canal Plus Spain, Television Espanola. (International sales: Sogepaq, Madrid.) Produced by Imanol Uribe, Andres Santana. Directed, written by Manuel Gutierrez Aragon.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Hans Burmann; editor, Jose Salcedo; music, Bingen Mendizabal; production designer, Felix Murcia; costume designer, Lena Mossun; sound (Dolby Digital), Miguel Rejas; casting, Sara Bilbatua. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (competing), Sept. 21, 2001. Running time: 112 MIN.

With: Joshe - Eduardo Noriega
Usua - Ingrid Rubio
Carmen Molina - Emma Suarez
Governor - Fernando Fernan-Gomez
Father Laburu - Karra Elejalde
Edurne - Leire UchaWith: Luis Tosar, Aitor Mazo, Jimmy Barnatan, Josu Ormaetxe, Kike Diaz Derrada.

More Film

  • Celebrities Sound Off on 2018

    Celebrities Pick Their Favorite Movies and TV Shows of 2018

    Still looking for the latest and greatest movie, TV series or book to finish before the year is out? Why not ask the folks behind Hollywood’s favorite hits, what they’re reading and viewing this 2018. We reached out to the stars and creators behind the things you love (including Barry Jenkins, Steven Canals and Dan Levy)  to [...]

  • Kate Winslet Saoirse Ronan

    Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan to Star in Fossil Hunter Movie 'Ammonite'

    Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan are starring in the independent historical drama “Ammonite,” a story inspired by the life of fossil hunter Mary Anning. The story is set in 1840s England, when Anning and a young woman sent to convalesce by the sea develop an intense relationship, altering both of their lives forever. Anning is [...]

  • Hugh Jackman'To Kill a Mockingbird' Broadway

    'To Kill a Mockingbird's' Starry Opening: Oprah, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and More

    The Shubert Theatre in New York City last was filled on Thursday night with Oscar winners, media titans, and, of course, Broadway legends who came out for the opening of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The starry guest list included Oprah Winfrey, Barry Diller, “Les Misérables” co-stars Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Gayle King, [...]

  • Salads for two.jpg

    Palm Springs Cuisine Scene: Latest Places to Dine in the Desert

    Desert playgrounds of the Coachella Velley beckon attendees of the upcoming Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival, getting under way Jan. 3. Veteran festgoers will notice some changes around town: the Hard Rock Hotel is again the Hotel Zoso, the Camelot Theaters now function under the auspices of the Palm Springs Cultural Center and there are [...]

  • Mary Poppins 1964

    P.L. Travers' Efforts to Adapt 'Mary Poppins' for Film, TV Were Often Less Than Jolly

    Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” a sequel decades in the making, opens Dec. 19. Even before the 1964 original, Hollywood made several attempts to adapt P.L. Travers’ books, with Samuel Goldwyn and Katharine Hepburn among those involved in the chase. But aside from a one-hour 1949 CBS television version, they all hit a dead-end. The first [...]

  • Can You Ever Forgive Me

    How the Palm Springs Film Festival Overcame a Rocky Start

    In January, the Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival will celebrate its 30th birthday. It’s a celebration that came very close to never happening. Founded by then-mayor of Palm Springs Sonny Bono in 1989, the festival was launched the following year to boost post-holiday business and help put the desert enclave on the map as a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content