This is the story of a house; it is also the story of a swallow. Two stories intertwined in two eras, revolving around the same locus along the Ways of St James (to Compostella), precisely on the spot where sits a house named Beltza, a place and a door that many avoid because, there, tongues loosen up and the minds of passers-by turn cloudy. The first story arises today around the friendship between Roseline the story-teller and Ugo the lone wanderer. This budding friendship kindles the memory of another story, that of Ainara and Aitor, of their blazing yet sorrowful love.
Statement of intent
The intention is to give a voice to people who have chosen, whether deliberately or accidentally, whether temporarily or not, to withdraw from the world. It is also about an attempt to speak about a quiet way of looking at the world or living on its fringes, a way of life and a way of gaining an existence. And maybe as well, to succeed in filming the passage of time.
A film of conversations
It is intended first and foremost as a film about conversations: recreating an actually little-known world where for a long time transmission has remained essentially oral and imagery-based, in other words, recreating a world devoid of any tangible existence.
Sensations and feelings will initially be conveyed by the spoken word, and later on by revisiting stories and memories retold or recalled in successive shifts between anecdotes and recollections, or by the intruding daily life.
The film-making perspective will be fuelled by evocations of a universe that relates in some way to the fiction novel, a kind of genre film, the genre of fantasy melodrama.
This flirt with the fantasy genre will be conveyed by structuring the film like a geographic and mental puzzle. It will build up gradually from the “local” to the “global”, with a hint to the infinite (hence the use of 1.85 format, and the stress on sound and music), focusing on individuals confronted to the complexity of the world, enmeshed in discoveries, questioning, prejudices and fantasies. Identities emerge as multiple masks both concealing and revealing an exquisite mystery: the existence of the “Other” and of what binds us to this Other.
A film on the move
The conversational contrast will be matched by contrasted situations: people are ceaselessly on the move, constantly on the road, whether today or centuries ago, whether alone or caught suddenly in the midst of crowds.
The narrative is built like a succession of re-creations, of conversational moments that gradually come alive with images, dreams that resemble reality, real-life moments from today or yesterday (like flashbacks), with the order and logic of time travel becoming clear at the end of the film, once the comprehension emerges that appearances are also not to be trusted.
Predominance of nature
One of the key characters in the film is Nature, the nature before our eyes filmed to show it as a true product of the people who have inhabited and shaped it over times immemorial. Filming of the characters (for instance, from the perspective of an animal, a plant or a house) will endeavor to reveal how in turn nature inhabits and shapes, and at times virtually bewitches the mind of those who attach to nature, or attempt to detach themselves from it, who join it or simply travel through it.
The film will rely as a backdrop on nature’s extreme serenity and subtle beauty, bathed in the sunlight and moon shadows characteristic of the locations over a few months in the late fall, and spurring the memory of a harsh story some three decades old (the story of Ainara).
The film takes place in the Basque Country, across the border between two countries.
Apart from geographic borders, the film also looks at the frontier as “the other side”, a frequently recurring conversational topic, where, on the other side, reality skirts a borderline with the unknown, the myth, the legend, invention even, in different languages, until the ultimate encounter with a familiar likeness.
The specific geographic and linguistic situation (spoken or subtitled in French, Spanish, Euskara or English) turns it into a kind of European laboratory; a situation similar to what may be found in many places around the planet, reflecting much broader issues. Here, this is about questions that any individual, whether lost in the remote wilderness or on the outskirts of a metropolis, whether living there for generations or recently arrived, will necessarily raise when wondering “What am I?” or “Who am I?”.
A young American woman, orphaned from her dancer mother and raised by her father, a “cowboy” style shepherd, in Western America. At barely thirty, an inheritance takes her back to Europe where she retraces her father’ roots. There, she experiences a brief but intense love affair with Aitor, a man hiding out in the house she inherited. Ainara is lively, straightforward, outspoken, free-spirited, and of course somewhat out of touch with the realities of local life. She is beautiful, she is “the American”. The disappearance of Aitor, which she causes unwittingly, binds her permanently to the scene. She speaks fluent Euskara (the nafarrera from her father’s native Lower Navarre is truly her mother tongue), English like most Basque-Americans, and French with an American accent.
He is a mature man with a mysterious past. His encounter with Ainara drives him out of his silence and into a kind of carefree attitude. Their relationship is intense, but without any future in his mind. Yet they are made for each other. A loner, whether by force or by nature, prisoner of his past, he is being hunted. As a realist, he doubts and lives only for the moment. With her, he travels secretly across other-worldly landscapes, just as he and she are from different worlds. Everything about him looks like a rock, yet he permits himself some hope. He is clearly not just a mere outlaw. There is something utterly attractive about him, reminiscent of a world of wilderness; wherever his steps take him, nothing is quite the same afterwards. He speaks Spanish and Euskara (a learned unified Basque, not his mother tongue).
She is fiftyish and lives near a village on a farm where she also rents out bed-and-breakfast guest rooms. She is one of those story-tellers who recount the lives of people of yesteryear and today, stories of houses, legends and other tales of folklore and sorcery. The story of Ainara emerges from her voice. Roseline is lively, straightforward, pragmatic, very active and outspoken. Story-telling seems to sharpen her sense of observation on human beings; she is also a listener. As sometimes happens, a friendship, a feeling of trust develops between the landlady and her temporary guest. She feels almost motherly towards Ugo who reminds her of someone else (Aitor). Living in perfect osmosis with her countryside world, she is a simple woman, devoid of any artifice other than words, a mysteriously uncomplicated yet bewitching woman. She speaks several languages, among which French, English and Euskara.
A drawing artist on the road to Compostella, in a quest for new images and for a still uncertain confrontation with his inner self. He is around 25 to 30 years old, somewhat of a dreamer, somewhat whimsical.
The dark House, Ainara’s house. Nothing but walls, yet it is the locus of all encounters. It observes passers-by; remembrance surges from its walls, loosening tongues and freeing memories. It sits at the extreme opposite of what a house meant and still means in such places: a grave and a cradle of life, a name, a spirit.
Roseline’s daughter. A pretty young woman, about 25 years old.
The American Connection
(extract from Do you want to be part of the production of a film in English, Basque, French and Spanish? Join “Ainara”, EuskalKultura.com)
"... Jean Darrigol, is originally from Aldude, in Behe-Nafarroa. His family on his mother’s side is from the house Harritxiloa, a place that marked him as a child and is reflected in the house in the film. “In this family of eleven kids, many of my mother’s brothers emigrated to the West to work as sheepherders, just like many of their neighbors. Some came back; others, like Michel Muchico, stayed in California where he died in the early 70s,” Darrigol told EuskalKultura.com. “Years later, when I lived in California, I found his grave in Fresno in 1999. It was the first time that a member of the family visited it.
During his stay in the US Darrigol and Jerome Humbert, another promoter of the Project, met Tomas Arana, that has worked a great deal as a supporting actor in Hollywood. “I also remember a native American ranger, who helped us when we got lost in the Joshua Tree desert during a storm. She told us that the Basques were the first outsiders that she saw on her reservation. “There was something open, without barriers there…like in Ainara, the protagonist. I like to think that she could be the daughter of the protagonists in John Houston’s “The Misfits.” She is from another place, like the swallows, in her dreams she imagines her roots, more beautiful and alive. The confrontation of this dream, and the dream of the Diaspora, is reality, and one of the themes treated in the film.”...".
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