DOWN Alice's rabbit hole, via a TARDIS (Doctor Who), or
in a DeLorean (Back to the Future): time-travel stories
create a fish-out-of-water scenario in which ancient customs
conflict with modernways. The Year and the Vineyard (El Ano y
la Vina) (Cert. 15) is one of these.
It is Spain, 1937. Andrea Pesce (Andrea Calabrese) is a member
of the Garibaldi Legion with the International Brigade, in the
Civil War against Fascism. During the Battle of Guadalajara, he
disappears down a hole in time, leaving behind his beloved Isabella
(Laura Drewett) and their Sicilian comrades.
Pesce lands clumsily in 2012, crushing crops in a Salamanca
vineyard. It is a place where time appears to have stood still.
Vines such as these were being cultivated centuries before 2012,
and in much the same way. In effect, Pesce moves out of specific
historical events and into something that has a ring of eternity
An eccentric priest, played in slightly too overwrought a manner
by Javier Saez, considers Pesce to be an angel. And so Pesce is, in
a sense; for he is a messenger from the past, warning the present
not to repeat the Civil War's mistakes. He and the priest differ
about the presence or absence of God. Pesce, having seen terrible
things, says: "In war thereis no God," to which the priest replies:
"God is everywhere." "In that case," retorts Andrea, "he was
The relaxed Salamancan peasants are challenged to be vigilant
for situations that threaten peaceful coexistence, as they did in
1930s Spain. Unfortunately, after the atrocities that he witnessed
when fighting at that time, Pesce is lulled into believing that
present-day Spain has none of yesteryear's problems.
The film colludes with this point of view. Idyllic landscapes,
gentle comedy, an uplifting soundtrack, and attractive
personalities are presented to us as a contemporary norm.
Questioning the validity of this is left to the audience. People
still hate, do dreadful things to one another, and act unjustly;
and yet none of this is explored. Instead of the past helping the
present to do better, the director, Jonathan Cenzual Burley, has it
the other way round.
Pesce wrestles with whether to remain in the relative
peacefulness of today or return to the Guadalajara of 1937. He now
knows that the Republicans managed to win that battle, but lost the
war. Faced with the existentialist question whether any of us makes
a difference to the way history unfolds, he must decide whether to
settle for the personal satisfaction of being reunited with
Isabella, for which fruitless endeavour against Franco's
Nationalists is the price.
Whether he go or stay, the encounters with his clerical
companion have convinced him that you shouldn't kill priests.
Thousands were murdered during the Spanish Civil War, not least
because they were frequently seen as supporting the conservative
Nationalist agenda. Pesce comes to believe that Roman Catholicism
is not to blame for Fascist oppression. Some historians and viewers
may disagree. Pesce prefers to harbour affection for individual
clerics whom he knows rather than demonise collectively those he
The film examines a great tragedy on a human scale rather than
reflect on the vast social movements in which people become
engulfed.War and Peace has been criticised for this
reason, too. I have a feeling that Tolstoy pulls it off,but
Jonathan Cenzual Burley fails to.
After a limited theatrical release, now available on