“Ramona” by Andrea Bagni: anxiety depicted in black and white
A first film by Spanish Andrea Bagni opens the 28th session (September 25 – October 4, 2023) of the European Film Festival in Lebanon. “Ramona” is a story filmed in black and white (with the exception of a few color shots). It begins with a long and tiring chatter between a young woman and a man, who meet by chance in a café. The “chatter” is divided into immediate and sensory issues, such as anxiety/insomnia and their relationship with the city/countryside, environmental and climate conditions, and feelings. And meditation.
The first chapter of 6 chapters reveals aspects of two personalities, one of whom seems completely different from the other. The end of the chapter is an entrance to quieter and deeper spaces. The young woman aspires to be a cinematic actor, and the man later appears to be a legitimate director. The young woman is supposed to participate in his “casting” the next morning.
In 5 subsequent chapters, selves collapse, secrets are revealed, conditions change, and souls are washed away. The young woman’s name is Oona (Lourdes Hernández), and the name becomes, in acting, Ramona. The director’s name is Bruno (Bruno Lastra). Oona returns to Madrid with her lover, Nico (Francisco Carril), who has been absent for an unknown time, and it is not important that it be known, or that the reasons for leaving be known. The most important emerges from a chance encounter in a café, and the later examines more deeply into the individual, his concerns, desires, details of his life, feelings, and thinking. Bruno’s speed in agreeing to include Oona in the film raises suspicion and astonishment, and those around him want him to slow down a little, as there are many applicants, and there is nothing wrong with seeing what they can do. Bruno wants her. At the end of that chance meeting, he declares to her that he loves her, and she revolts and leaves after telling him that she is in a relationship.
A narrative that calms down in dispelling ambiguity, and revealing what is hidden in the corners of the soul, body, and desires. The tyranny of black and white is accompanied by the beauty of quick shots of buildings, roads, trees, and streets, after “Ramona” opens with the voice of a young woman calling: “Dad,” and no one answers her, as if the failure to respond is a warning of bad news, without knowing the reason for the failure to respond (!), and without For someone or something to appear, except for a young woman (that would be Oona) smoking a cigarette on a small balcony.
Oona/Ramona wants to become an actress. Bruno wants her, and his love for her is great. Nico is an artist in food preparation, and is insightful in his early discovery of the emergence of a relationship, albeit silent at the time, between his lover and the director. Nico encourages her to participate in the film, but he is not keen on leaving the house, which is located in a building inhabited by young people who frighten Oona, and they are the reason for her insistence on moving to another place. Gradually, the young woman progresses in her work, and the film is finished, so the moment becomes crucial: Will her relationship with Bruno end?
81 minutes is enough to follow paths, which will not reach the level of contradiction, as the difference between them is less significant. The adoption of the black and white technique, with the exception of shots of performance exercises and film shooting, comes from a desire to make the images mirrors of the hidden in its soul and soul, and colors are an artistic necessity, as if cinema (performance exercises and film shooting) is an outlet and a rest.
“This first film of Spanish cinema resonates as a tribute to the romantic comedy, with beautiful references, served with well-controlled black and white,” says an introduction to “Ramona” published on the website of StudioCinemas (7 art and experience halls in Tours, in western France). As for Hernandez, who is also a singer and songwriter, she “provides a sensitive interpretation of her personality and contributes to her charm.” This is an accurate description of a performance that brings out the character’s secrets and allows the actress to discover the acting skill she possesses in deconstructing Oona and Ramona together. Lucas Aubry writes (website of Sofilm, a bi-monthly French film magazine, May 16, 2023) that everyone suffers from anxiety, and “those who display it doom themselves to being seen as unhappy.” He adds that these topics are “perfect” for starting a conversation with a psychiatrist, or in a café: “Those who choose to keep it to themselves die young from pancreatic cancer.” He believes that this is a “universal rule,” that it is “unshakable,” and that it is mentioned in the opening of this “moving” film. But all of this, despite the importance of the “analysis” it contains, is closer to the feeling of an opinionated person in one or more cases, narrated with “gossip” that will be tiring, even a little, and will seem as if it is “artificial,” especially in the way it is narrated, accompanied by sharp cutting/synthesis ( Edited by Pablo Barsi), even a little too.
The most prominent feature of this critical text lies in linking anxiety to pancreatic cancer, through the question of recognizing/retaining it. The issue is not easy, because disclosing a matter like this entails challenges, the most prominent of which is the extent to which a person is “able” to say/not say. “Ramona Meets Bruno” is the first chapter that goes deep into the wound, narrating it with some chatter that resembles a feigning of self-expression. Despite this, the following chapters transform the course, climate, and details of the story, and the transformation makes the cinematic text simpler in revealing, saying, feeling, and sharing.