Since its publication four years ago, Fernando Aramburu Patria’s novel has become not only a sales phenomenon, but also one of the most important cultural events in recent decades, a monumental work spanning 40 years of the history of our country through the wounds that the Basque conflict has generated from the perspective of various characters marked by ideology, pain, guilt or loss.
The expectation has been highest since the television adaptation in the form of a series was announced by the HBO network, which is now being presented at the San Sebastián film festival. How to transfer into images the pages of a book that has become a classic of our time and whose spirit has been embedded in the collective imagination of its readers?
The creator of the series, Aitor Gabilondo knew that it was not an easy task and that he faced one of the greatest challenges of his professional career, which includes television milestones such as The Prince. “I was always clear about the heart of the story, those two mothers, strong women separated by violence for years. A clash between two universes in which the concept of victim or executioner was not simplified, but served to reveal very strong, very deep and visceral feelings and which proposed a very powerful psychological, emotional or even existential journey ”.
Indeed, Bittori, the wife of a victim (an immense Elena Irureta, in the role of her life) and Miren, mother of a terrorist (also unforgettable Ane Gabarain) are the main driving force behind this eight-episode television fiction which will premiere on September 27. But around it we also find a whole melting pot of characters that serve to trace all that time bomb that, by way of contradictions, has been present in Euskadi throughout these years. For Gabilondo, drawing the different points of view was essential to address the world of armed struggle, the incarceration of prisoners, the feeling of anger or disappointment, the fear of the victims and their stigmatization or the division within communities between good and bad through an atmosphere marked by repression and suffocation.
Facing a fiction
“They were turbulent and dramatic years that I lived closely,” continues Gabilondo. “I was a kid in the 80s and it was important for me to try to convey that environment as precisely as possible, although I always try to emphasize that we are facing a fiction, a dramatization of events that are by no means absolute truths.”
A few weeks ago the publication of a poster in which the image of a murder was seen as opposed to the torture in the prisons of ETA members caused a great stir that even led Aramburu to disassociate himself from the HBO advertising machine. Are those responsible afraid of our controversies? “I believe that controversies are healthy, that a fiction generates debate is stimulating. This has always been a story with two faces and the wound continues to be very recent, there is a lot of pain and to a certain extent it is taboo to talk about certain topics. So it is normal that it removes or makes it uncomfortable ”, he assures.
Another of the biggest handicaps faced by the adaptation of Patria was not only to make the narrative flow through the different points of view, but to contrast the past and the present, the germ of everything, with its decline. As Gabilondo says, the passage of time is doing its work of erosion in the characters and slowly soaks, sculpting the miseries of the characters.
In that sense, challenge achieved. The 80s are almost mirror-like contrasted with a present (the year 2011, after the announcement of the cessation of activities of the terrorist gang) full of traumas and the transitions between both parties are intertwined with extreme elegance.
The first chapter of Patria, one of the best that Spanish television fiction has given, opens with the death of Txato, Bittori’s husband. Gabilondo knew that he had to adapt the novel to be cinematographic, and that moment, in reality, is the one that underpins everything. We see it at the beginning and at the end of the chapter in two different ways, the last through a sequence shot that culminates in a heartbreaking scream, a riddled body and the omnipresent rain. From this moment, it can be considered television history.