Solitary Fragments: The title is a clue—a pleasant enough couple in a Spanish village split up. They have money problems but are not impoverished. She moves to Madrid—it could be any European city—with their young child, he stays in the village. She rents a flat. One of the flatmates has two sisters. The family of sisters have disputes over whether their mother and her lover should sell their flat. One of the sisters is ill, needs a hospital operation. Most of the film consists of domestic shots of these people cooking, arguing, tidying, going shopping, sitting in buses.
Director Jaime Rosales remarkably captures the rhythms of daily life and conversation. He frequently uses a split screen to allow two views of the same domestic time passing. The film opens with Adela, (Sonia Almarcha) arriving at her flat with her child. From a number of static cameras, one inside the flat another looking in from an outside window, we observe her pottering about, twittering to the child, scolding Pedro, her lover and chief financial problem.
Rosales uses the same technique with conversation itself, which is sometimes quite startling and refreshing. Again with the split screen, we observe a conversation between two people. Suddenly we are cut directly into the conversation. The actor speaks straight to the camera, as if to the other participant in the conversation. There is no “shaky cam.” There is no need for talk to be appended by shots of the ceiling, the view out the window, or a cut to someone stubbing out a cigarette.
What matters is the person, the face, the conversation, all of which unfolds at a pace that gives the audience time to think, to update themselves on what has, or has not happened, instead of being bowled along by a visual assault. It also gives the actors time to explore relations between the characters. Dynamics between the sister and mother (Jesús Cracio) are carefully and naturally drawn.It can also be, frankly, a little dull. This is contemporary Spain, and the core of this film is an event in which social and political tensions intrude dramatically on domestic life, yet which none of the protagonists discuss in any way beyond the directly personal consequences. Rosales seems to be saying that under the impact of tragic and confusing events people are driven further apart, into ever more isolated and lonely circumstances.The film took four years to make. Over that time, in response to lies told over the likely origin of the 2004 Madrid bomb attacks, the then Popular Party government of José María Aznar triggered huge antiwar and anti-government demonstrations that forced his government from power. Tens of thousands of workers and young people mobilised. The movement also coincided with continual demands for renewed investigations of mass graves from the Spanish Civil War period.Any reflection of this confused but real radicalisation is entirely absent from Solitary Fragments. Perhaps this is why Rosales is being hailed as a coming force in European cinema.[Edinburgh Film Festival Programme,2007]