YANCO (Servando González, 1961)

A stunning assault on Roman Catholicism, which Spain imposed on Mexican natives during the three centuries it colonized Mexico beginning in the 1500s, Yanco comes from Mexico. Servando González has wrought a deeply affecting, lyrical, highly symbolical work whose protagonist, Juanito, lives with his mother, María, in a small village. The time is the present, but the form of a parable imbues everything with a spirit of timelessness. A near absence of dialogue focuses our attention instead on work sounds and sounds of Nature.
     Like Roderick Usher, the young native boy is hypersensitive to noise. An elderly hermit teaches him to play the violin. (The film’s title refers to the old man’s violin.) After the man dies, Juanito nightly borrows the violin from the shop/bar where it hangs for sale from a hook and, blanketed by Nature, plays the instrument, adding beauty to the night. During a festival honoring the boy’s mother’s namesake, the villagers, armed with torches (the scene is out of James Whale’s 1931 Frankenstein), pursue the sound’s source, as much offended by this melodiousness as the boy has been daily tortured by everyday noise. Their intent is to kill. We see an expressionistic projection of this: Juanito’s being sucked down into a black maelstrom in the sea.
     González thus takes aim at irrational hatred bred by religion. Of course, the Indians’ native religion is no less grounded in superstition, and González also shows this, particularly in the backward rituals on which some poor villagers rely in lieu of modern medicine. However, he also shows, with connecting camera movements, the natural basis for native religion as distinct from the “new” forced faith, which owes nothing to the regional water, weather, flora and fauna—the round of life to which Juanito himself belongs.
     Now, eternally.

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