By Suria Sudhakaran (Santa Clara, California, US)
There are only a few times that I ever have decided to write a review on a book or a movie. Palm Trees in the Snow (Palmeras en la nieve), is a Spanish movie that has touched my heart again and again. And my writing a review on this 7.3 IMDb rated 2015 movie is not going to benefit or alter the viewership of this in any significant way; but still, I have decided to.
I still don’t know how many times I have watched this movie. First time while I was on a 16 hour flight from India to the US. It’s a long duration movie that lingered in my heart till the end of my journey. So what is it that stuck ?
Based on the best-selling novel by Luz Gabas, the story revolves around Kilian, a young Spanish man from the mountains of Huesco in Spain, who, in 1954 returns to the island of Ferndo Po in Guinea (present Bioko) where he was born. He joins his father and brother, Jacob. As a family they are one of the Spanish colonialists who raise cocoa.
Mostly delivered via flashback, it follows the discovery of a letter in 2003 by the young, idealistic Clarence (Adriana Ugarte) that reveals a hint about her father Jacob’s and uncle Kilian’s past and sets out to discover what was concealed behind that journey to the former Guinea. The best possible way to describe this movie is ‘a painting in a film form’. The most captivating crux of the movie is the passionate love between Kilian and a married Guinean nurse named Bisila.
These characters portrayed develop a slow and intriguing entanglement as the movie proceeds. They both have such excellent on-screen chemistry (the love which has blossomed from reel to real life too) that many a times you can sense the penetrating love even through the yearning glances through the windows across the street or even during lighting of a torch across the alley to indicate each other’s presence.
What I found very interesting was the way the movie tackled the complexities of colonialism. Taking us through the lives of both sides of colonialist lives unbiasedly, it portrays all that is life in an elaborate subtle, passionate way: be it of the unrequited love of Julia to Jacob, the acceptance of a non-passionate marriage by Julia, the animalistic instincts of colonial men, the helplessness of a husband (Mosi; Bisila’s husband),the surfacing of suppressed anger of the slavery, the plight of helpless women in the society and the stories of friendships that exists beyond colonialism.
The unapologetic love affair beyond races or colonialism against prejudices of society or norms and its repercussions across generations and continents on lives of the people involved is spun impeccably. By portraying of the strength of the woman at the height of elegance, the independence and character that exists despite all that is against her life; this Guinean woman – character is the subtle light house of the movie.
The movie is a visual treat, with a hint of African philosophy and the fact that beyond the facades of dividends, humanity sews a string to attach all odds beautifully.