There are many times when I am happy that I don't ever sit in the dark of a cinema with a pen and torch, taking notes and distracting everyone else around me with my small beacon of bad manners. I like to just sit back and take in every aspect of a movie, and I generally make a mental note of elements that I can then flesh out later, during my writing of reviews. But there are rare occasions when I am not so happy about my lack of notes, and this is one of them.
I THINK I have enough of the characters and cast names nailed down, but I welcome any corrections from others who have seen the film.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let me get to the main review. Errementari: The Blacksmith And The Devil is based on an old folk tale, and if you're as unaware of it as I was then just know that it's something that runs along the lines of a Faustian pact. A blacksmith, Patxi (Kandido Uranga), spends his life shut up in his intimidating home, avoiding interactions with the local villagers. This situation looks set to change when an official type of gent comes to the village and claims that he is seeking a large amount of gold that is hidden somewhere in the area. It must be hidden at Patxi's home, which leads to a party heading out there to force their way inside. Meanwhile, a little girl named Usue (Uma Bracaglia) has already infiltrated the home of the blacksmith and discovered that he is keeping a small boy imprisoned in a cage. Moments later, the blacksmith is dealing with Usue, a demon named Sartael (Eneko Sagardoy), and that crowd trying to get inside his home. He's also due to be taken to Hell at some point, an idea that appeals to Usue, as she knows her mother is supposed to be residing there after committing suicide.
I'm just about as happy with that summary as I can be, despite how clumsy it might seem. I don't want to spoil any potential surprises for viewers, and there are definitely some fun twists and turns in the second half of the film that utilise interesting ideas about dealing with demons, as well as what happens to those who go to Hell.
Director Paul Urkijo Alijo, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Asier Guerricaechevarria, may not get things perfect, the film has some notable pacing issues when it comes to the third act, but he's definitely someone to keep an eye on, having already cut his teeth on some genre-soaked short films. There are a number of very impressive practical effects on display here, with Sartael and some other demonic forms presented in a way that I haven't seen so impressively rendered since the iconic performance by Tim Curry in Legend, and the production value throughout is of the highest quality.
Deftly balancing the fantastical elements with some comedy and a huge helping of heart, this is a great example of how to present a classic tale to modern audiences without having to patronise viewers or compromise the material. The cast all do their best to sell the characters and events - Uranga is more a man of action than words, Bracaglia is innocent and adaptable to the strange situation, and Sagardoy is a delightful mix of evil and pathetic - and every one of the supporting players manages to do equally good work.
You also get a lovely score, plenty of fiery scenes shot in a way that make you feel the heat emanating off the screen, a punchline to pretty much every set up, and some imagery in the last few scenes that blend technical wizardry with a nice economical approach to capably raise the material to the level of the outright mythological.
Not sure when this will get a wider release, in the meantime you can buy Faust, if you like.