Ainhoa Rodriguez’s feature film debut is committed to the unsaid. We see a man talking about a woman’s disappearance in a television interview; we do not see a woman just offscreen, muttering expletives at his falsehoods. Minutes later, we see another woman unable – or unwilling – to answer whether she has been married, begging the frailty of memory. Men gather in contentment, ladies lunch in their heels and pearls (but are beware of wearing too much), and it seems that nothing will ever change in this rural corner of Spain.
On the surface, little changes over the film’s run, but the off-kilter atmosphere belies the tensions under the surface. Rodriguez works with largely non-professional actors, enhancing surreal naturalism at work in a town of lost hopes and secret desires. DESTELLO BRAVIO, translated as “Mighty Flash,” is half plea, half threat, recorded on a tape and left to frame the fate of this town.
Key scenes are framed in extraordinary long shots, where we see figures moving on a beach or in a field but cannot make out faces. The sound design switches between a deliberately understated, diegetic underscoring and an electronic soundtrack that sometimes pulses, sometimes sits static. When this music underscores moments without life – a doorway, a darkened room, an imperceptible landscape – the other possibilities seem close but just beyond reach. And not all that happens can be explained within this reality.
Alongside this delicate magical realist thread, the undercurrent of female lust – for life, for love, and for something a bit bigger than what satisfies the men – runs relentlessly. The women of the town see Cita as an outcast for her high hair, makeup, and determination to live without a man. However, after they whisper and watch, their conversations in church over coffee and cake drip with a similar desire. The men seem far happier both on the surface and underneath – content with nights at the local watering hole and caring for their goats.
But this community – both in its men’s simple needs and its women’s more elaborate rituals – is tightly knit and surprisingly upbeat. There is never a sense that they are trapped, instead just waiting for that flash of inspiration to come. In this delicate balance, DESTELLO BRAVIO marks Rodriguez as a filmmaker to watch.