Carlos Saura’s Raise Ravens (Cría Cuervos) is a beautiful example of a psychologically realistic film; which corresponds to a literary method in which a piece of fiction focuses on the interior motives, psychological processes, and characters’ mental narratives instead of simply telling a story.
While growing up, no matter how distorted a child’s perception might be, the trauma occurs of what she has perceived and felt, and not of what had actually happened. Even if she misunderstands everything, the mark it leaves is what makes her who she is.
The director wanders around this vague border between memories and imagination through Ana’s eyes. The film begins with old photos which fixates the date, but Ana (Ana Torrent) and her mother (Geraldine Chaplin) always look the same as if they are stuck in time. Her perception might have distorted the flashbacks; and that’s why we cannot discern what is imagined by Ana and what are actual memories of her.
Notice that the grown-up Ana, who reminisces the current events, looks exactly like her mother. This reminds me of Nocturnal Animals when Susan imagines Tony as Edward while reading the manuscript. This resemblance could mean that Ana is still a child, but imagines herself to look just like her mother when she grows up, and will remember the events as such. But, it could also be actually grown up Ana. The director leaves us in the dark here, and distorts our perception just as Ana’s.
At the beginning of the film, when her mother shows up for the first time, it is impossible for us to figure that this is imagined. But later on, the director leaves crumbs for us; such as the chicken feet in the fridge. This is so absurd that you know something which doesn’t belong there will show up in the film soon. Also, if her mother wears the same nightdress we figure that we watch Ana’s imagination.
“I remember childhood as an interminably long and sad time.”
Ana is a troubled child, and the main reason for it is that her perception of death is pretty much distorted. The concept of death is somewhat vague for her, because nobody properly explains it. Nobody talks to her about how she feels at the funeral, instead they just tell her what she is supposed to do. She mistakes death to something like leaving. Notice how easily Ana serves her grandmother the poison. And in her mother’s case; a sorrowful woman tells she wants to die and then she simply dies. This twisted perception causes her to think that she is responsible for killing everyone.
The scene where Ana alienates from herself and imagines that she jumps off the roof is very surreal. Just as a dream, or a nightmare, she imagines how it would feel to fall. In psychologically realistic films, these surreal scenes aim to convey us directly how the character feels subconsciously. Ana feels very much insecure, and is crushed under the guilt as she thinks she killed everyone.
Even though the film is psychologically realistic and gives almost no clues regarding the outside world, it holds a political concern. The film was shot while General Franco was on his deathbed, and it implies parallelism between Ana’s traumas and the political chaos in the country. The claustrophobic household stands for Spain, and Ana stands for the Spanish younger generation that suffered brutally from the regime and the uncertainty of its aftermath. Note that the soundtrack “Porque Te Vas” means “Because you are leaving.”
Not only because the song is the background music to my life ever since I have seen Raise Ravens, but I would highly recommend to see this film for masterful use of technique and outstanding acting.