TO Mario Gas the Uruguayan soul appears in La Strada. I see the show and imagine his mother in Montevideo, carrying him in his arms, advancing against the wind and the shipyard drizzle, and I think of what Onetti said: "Like a rainy day when they bring me a wet coat to put it on." That is the climate and the overwhelming sadness of the film of Fellini, that he did not remember so dark. Gas has added, to start, three spectral clowns who receive us in the Abbey dressed in black, with Beckett hats and red noses. On the stage, three screens where black and white fragments are projected (with flashes in red) of a dream movie, by the master Álvaro Luna, as remains thrown on the beach. And in the final print we will see the three, lost, eternal ghosts, facing the sea.
On the stage, a wagon travels the desolate, icy roads. The light of Felipe Ramos paints ranges of gray. Later, high lights will appear in the night, and posters, in faded colors, of an imaginary, unreachable circus. More than prints from the Italian post-war period, the scenery of Juan Sanz suggests the oakies of The grapes of anger in the days of depression. There is no mythical. Zampanò has nothing to do with the invincible Lotario de The adventures of Mandrake. The strongman of the wagon does the only thing he knows how to do: break a chain with his chest. Alfredo Lara embodies a violent, turbid, cold Zampanò, unable to love. I saw those profiles when it was the brutal Walter de Emilia, of Claudio Tolcachir, where he left me shaken. I thought of James Gandolfini, and here is more Gandolfini than ever, although, if I think about it, a young Jean Gabin comes to mind, because Fellini's film is very close, in my eyes, to Marcel Carné's desperate cinema.
The actress Verónica Echegui plays the very difficult role of Gelsomina, which was the revelation (and the consecration) of Giulietta Masina. Gelsomina is a generous heart, innocent as a dog, faithful even to the one who kicks it. Echegui is the embodiment of purity. Exhalates charm and pain. But, in my view, she's too pretty for me to believe her as Gelsomina. I can not swallow that his mother sold it to Zampanò for four kids. On the other hand, his mental composition is very convincing, the trembling of that poor head more and more lost, and it tears at me his final madness, when he shouts at the Fool, and the melody of his trumpet, one of the best compositions by Nino Rota. It sounds like the wind.
Alberto Iglesias, of which I still remember his six characters in Fires, He is the Fool. An existentialist tightrope walker, a lucid, smiling but bitter clown, who foresees his own death. I do not think that Iglesias lacks that laughter with which one might try to suggest his dark side: that reiteration (the only downside) is contrived and somewhat tiresome.
I really like the dialogues of Fellini, Flaiano and Pinelli, in the version that Gerard Vázquez published in 1999. And I like the "musical voices": each character has an instrument that defines him. The Crazy's violin guides Gelsomina's trumpet, which sounds movingly out of tune, with a squalid joy. The drum of Zampanò sounds like the bark of a dog that does not know how to ask otherwise. Orestes Gas score has romantic and dark passages, which sometimes comes to be the same, and creates a very tight atmosphere, which also highlights the silence between Gelsomina and Zampanò.
What I miss? Some stations along the way, some secondary characters. I understand that Gas wants a very bare montage, and chooses to limit himself to the three protagonists to condense the story, make it deeper, without discharges, although the moments of humor are appreciated, as the great scene in which the Crazy man ruins the number of Zampanò.
The main risk of the function is, perhaps, its slowness. It is not long (one hour and 35 minutes), but progresses at a somewhat prudent pace. The garua soaks little by little, true, and tragedy and desolation do not always advance quickly, but pruning or accelerating some lassitudes might not hurt.
A sensational idea: the filmed appearance of Gloria Muñoz, the owner of the bar where Zampanò receives the sad news. And we. A scene I did not remember in the movie. The actress, shining literally and metaphorically in a very subtle black and white, perhaps another character of Marcel Carné. Or Simenon's novel: The widow Couderc, for example.
I have also seen and applauded L'habitació del costat (The Vibrator Play), a delicate and surprising piece by Sarah Ruhl, mounted by Julio Manrique in the Villarroel of Barcelona. Next Saturday, I'll tell you.
The Strada. Federico Fellini. Direction: Mario Gas. Theater of the Abbey. Madrid. Until December 30.