Vet helmer Jaime Chavarri turns gold into dross with his musty-feeling betrayal of Eduardo Mendoza’s bestselling novel “The Year of the Flood.” Though pic is co-scripted by Mendoza himself, the grace and wit of the original are mostly absent, replaced by an unlikely combination of plodding literalism on the one hand and sheer implausibility on the other. Though the last half hour of the meller-based pic — basically a vehicle for Gallic thesp Fanny Ardant — is watchable, irredeemable damage has been done over the early reels. Commercially, “Flood” looks set to drown outside limited Hispanic territories and the odd fest.
In post-Civil War Catalonia, mother superior Sor Consuelo (Ardant) runs a charity hospital. Aiming to raise money to convert it into an old people’s home, she approaches haughty local landowner Aixela (Dario Grandinetti)but is repeatedly rebuffed. Meanwhile, anti-Franco resistance fighters, led by Balaguer (Gines Garcia Millan) and pursued by civil guard Sgt. Lastre (Francesc Orella), occasionally come down from the mountains to steal money for the cause.
Slowly, famed womanizer Aixela falls for Sor Consuelo, who reciprocates, calling him “the devil” as she smiles and starts to neglect her religious duties. But theirs is a love both impossible and far-fetched.
Pic is interesting only for its lens-friendly locations and for the light it almost inadvertently sheds on an interesting moment in Spanish history. The anything-goes plotline is shakily told, with its treatment of time passing especially wobbly. Characterization rarely escapes stereotyping, with Sgt. Lastre in particular a kind of Hispanic Policeman Plod. Though Ardant does her best to bring Sor Consuelo alive, the couple of scenes intended to show her inner rebel are ridiculous, including one in which she skips around with a tennis racket.
Dialogue is stilted, with characters waiting for others to finish speaking before they start themselves. Ardant is dubbed throughout by vet Spanish thesp Mercedes Sampietro, generating further credibility problems.