From Miguel Delibes, Mario Camus’s Los santos inocentes is an incisive, haunting portrait of the political connection between Franco’s fascism, the Church, and the feudalism of land barons in Spain’s countryside in the 1960s. Impoverished peasants Paco and Régula work for Pedro, who manages a vast rural estate. Their problems are real, unlike those in the mansion that can be credited to high-born vanity and indolence.
Paco and Régula have three children: a sick, bedridden child, her older sister, and Quirce, their son who resists the status quo encapsulated in his mother’s by-rote utterance, “We’re here to serve.” This boy, serving in the military, delays using his leave to go home. The film alternates between him in the present and his and others’ flashbacks. There is one other member of the household cramped into small quarters: Azarías, a simple man who as a result of washing his hands in urine to keep them from chapping was discharged after sixty years of service, causing him to move in with Régula, his sister. Régula desperately wants her older children somehow to get an education.
Paco believes that his relationship with Ivan, the landowner’s son, is special. Ivan avidly hunts birds on the estate, and gamekeeper Paco is his guide, assistant and strength; but when Paco breaks a leg after falling from a tree, Ivan shows a total lack of concern. Quirce’s insolence prompts Ivan to speak of the need for “hierarchy.” Paco’s tumble to the ground visually suggests the potential for a collapse of hierarchy, and something else later drives this home: when he is perched on a tree branch, Azarías’s roping Ivan below and hanging him because the latter, frustrated that without Paco his hunting sucks, shot to death Azarías’s pet goshawk from the sky.
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