“I’m afraid to see the same path every day,” says Ana, the main character of ‘El Agua’. The struggle against conformism caused by prejudices and gender issues in southeastern Spain and the fear of the unknown that haunts an entire population are the main subjects of Elena López Riera debut feature.
‘El Agua’ follows Ana, a 17-year-old girl who ends up living a forbidden romance with Jose. Their relationship is condemned by Jose’s father, who believes that Ana’s family is cursed for not having any men in her midst. The legend of the ‘woman with water inside’ that torments the population of this village reinforces the insecurity of Jose’s father, who begs the son to see whom he is getting involved with. Although the true meaning of the legend isn’t explored by the director, the mysticism of the water in the region is able to drown the feelings of the population residents of the village, creating a constant fear that the worst is always around the corner, and alongside a forecast of new floods that promises to take the city down, paranoia begins to affect.
The conformism that takes over the city begins to disturb Ana, who increasingly wants to leave in search of a better life. Her desire reinforces speculation that she is another one cursed by the legend of the ‘woman with water inside’. The cycle of renewal and destruction caused by this almost folkloric mysticism may well be compared to the effect of the imminent flood that will affect the city, since both are passing events that leave a trail of destruction. In the case of the floods this definition can be considered more literal, while the mysticism works more as an emotional and psychological representation of loss and renewal. The water that is known for its cycle of renewal and change, takes on a whole new meaning with a revelation at the end of the film, showing how Riera maintained her convictions throughout the development of the story.
Riera’s direction has a certain fascination with the human relationship with water, making it a key factor in the development of the plot and the characters. Her directing skills do not fail to show the artistic vision she has with the story, as she handles the narrative with an approach that, in the hands of the wrong filmmaker, could’ve ended up as something totally abstract. The technical aspects of the film are crucial to set the spiritual tone that the story requires. The cinematography carries the visuals of the films with a youthful and light aspect, while it also makes the mysticism around the water seem to be something completely ordinary. Furthermore, the sound design helps to lyrically amplify the folklore that surrounds the small village.
Ana’s renewal – which can also be seen as a sort of rebirth – shows how a curse that subdues female feelings and actions can help perpetuate an idea that dehumanizes the emotions and desires of various women throughout history, but that, at least during the film, the story of one can be an inspiration to the story of another, as a spiritual bond that connects all its victims as a sisterhood.