Fernando Trueba's New Film Searches for the Artistic Ideal

William Eley


"So, the best we can do is to remain in a small corner eating some potatoes… while there is some left," thus states the artist in Fernando Trueba's latest feature The Artist and the Model.  This aforementioned declaration, or, perhaps, exhalation, summarizes well the central thesis of this mesmeric, black and white masterpiece:  war is an interruption, an impediment in the way of beauty and its purveyors. 


Though, his narrative claims 1943 Occupied France as "place," Trueba decidedly circumvents the American stylized World War II era film cliche in his choice to relegate uniformed soldiers, and the whirring of their airborne munitions, to mere background noise as they literally and metaphysically impede the creative process and further magnify the contentious relationship that exists between an artist and his muse.


Our elderly sculptor, Marc Cros, is "a good man, though an artist," and his muse, the Catalonian refugee Merce, played by the gobsmackingly beautiful Aida Folch, are poised to peel away the disruptive, bloody layers of their cracked continent to find Marc's "idea." This idea, essentially, an ethereal yet eternal expression of art and humanity that can forever evade the savagery of man.  With obstacles to include lengthy visits from a scholarly German officer and Merce's ever-thinning figure resulting from her nightly forays into the nearby Perynees to aid resistance fighters as they traverse a militarized border, both artist and model arduously press on in romantic pursuit of immortality.



Furthermore, Fernando Trueba continues to utilize incest-tinged religious-sexual themes that have more or less defined a number of his feature films made over the past three decades.  As a means of expressing his downtrodden breed of deism and explaining his obsession with the female form, our artist explains to his muse that Eve was God's original creation, and Adam was but the accidental child of a romantic union between God and Eve.  And, by channeling Sophocles and his ill-fated Oedipus, he is certain that humans were banished from paradise because of Adam being "caught" with Eve, the very paradise Marc has tried finding again with every creative impulse… his "idea."  So in this perverse permutation of Genesis, the filmmaker can further express his disgust for the chaos and misery that men and their "principles" have wrought throughout history, men and their uncanny ability to thwart the pursuit of beauty.


In summation, this film is a rich mediation on the timeless and human themes of obsession, beauty, violence, and mortality; and a film that well eclipses all others I have seen so far this year.  So, in that, The Artist and the Model will grow the hearts of those that so choose to let it wash over them.


Author Bio:


William Eely is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine and a master's candidate of Aesthetics and Politics at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California.

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