Having enjoyed watching his previous two feature films, I'm surprised Benito Zambrano hasn't made many more. There's great deal of attention paid to composition and lighting in his films and he certainly wants his audience to remember the scenes long after leaving their seat. Just in his latest prison drama, "La Voz Dormida" [Eng. Title: The Sleeping Voice] - some of the scenes are truly memorable. But my favourite however remains his debut feature "Solas", for its exquisite screenplay and direction, not to mention the strong performances all around - do not miss it if you get an opportunity.
This film too has some exceptional performances from its main cast, particularly from the talented and beautiful newcomer María León who deservedly won a Goya for the best new actress of the year. The film won further awards for original score and supporting actress. Needless to say, Recommended Viewing..!
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Set during the aftermath of the Spanish civil war when Francisco Franco's regime systematically purged remnants of the erstwhile left-wing republicans by imprisoning and executing people connected with communists, we follow the fate of Hortensia, the imprisoned and pregnant wife of a communist commander (ably played by Inma Cuesta). Her younger sister Pepita arrives in Madrid to seek help in whatever way she can to get her released, but inevitably gets involved with the communists when she couriers messages between Hortensia and her husband in hiding. Hortensia's fate is nevertheless sealed and hers will be one of several executions of men and women held after mock trials during the turbulent period. Pepita's only solace will be a reminder of her sister in the form of Hortensia's newborn baby.
Compilation: María León
In one particularly nasty scene, Pepita is tortured by authorities while asked to identify a commander from a group of men captured along with her brother-in-law. She is left naked in a cell until the father of her employer, a close associate of Franco gets her released after making sure she didn't implicate his son, a former doctor and left-wing sympathiser in any way. María León gives a heart-felt and convincing performance as Pepita.