Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil
Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil is a re-telling of an ancient fable about a Blacksmith who finds himself battling the Devil. In this story the Blacksmith has captured the Devil and lives a life of hermit-like seclusion away from the prying eyes of the townsfolk. All is going well until a desperate little girl, Usue, accidentally stumbles across the devil and unknowingly releases him. It is then left to the Blacksmith to reclaim his bounty, but this is easier said then done as he also finds himself at the end of a lynch mob that have come searching for the missing Usue.
Paul Urkijo Alijo
Paul Urkijo Alijo
Spanish filmmaker Paul Urkijo Alijo addressed the audience at the Utah premiere of his new film (as writer/director) Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil – at the 5th Annual FilmQuest Film Festival – held in Provo, Utah.
He implored the audience to basically look at the film as if we were kids, mentioning The Dark Crystal and Legend – classic genre films of the ’80s. Put ourselves in our living rooms, in our pajamas – like we’re at a sleepover.
Not to belittle what he said, but based on the sentimental, goofy – and oftentimes very dark subject matter we then experienced during the screening of his film – I gotta wonder… what kind of sleepovers did he attend?
Eight years after the bloody Carlist War which began in 1833, a government official named Alfredo (Ramon Aguirre) descends upon a rural Spanish village to investigate the events of the war, which leads him to a reclusive blacksmith named Patxi (Kandido Uranga), set up in what is an almost impenetrable compound in the nearby woods. A little girl named Usue (Uma Bracaglia) is something of an outcast in the community, and one day stumbles onto Patxi’s property, where she discovers and accidentally unleashes an actual demon named Sartael (Eneko Sagardoy) being held prisoner in Patxi’s expansive workshop. Having to deal with this little girl, the escaped creature and a suspicious village mob on the search for missing Usue, Patxi bonds with this unique little girl.
What is it about the Spanish-language horror imports which so enthrall us? From the extensive catalog of Guillermo del Toro, to The House at the End of Time (review) from a few years back, to last year’s Tigers Are Not Afraid (review) and even 2013’s fantastic Witching and Bitching (review) – love them all! And now we can safely add The Blacksmith and the Devil to this list of high cinematic art!
A bit of trivia: Alex de la Iglesia – director of Witching and Bitching is a producer on Errementari (translated as “blacksmith”).
Every technical department on this film deserves some serious praise. From costumes to lighting to camerawork (capturing gorgeous wooded and seemingly historied landscapes). There’s simply nothing with which to take issue.
Of all the perfectly-executed work from this bevy of artisans, nothing impressed me more than the detail in the set design. It’s nothing short of stunning – particularly in the blacksmith’s home/workshop. Everywhere you look while Usue wanders through the workshop, there is eye candy and details which illustrate how long Patxi has been alone here.
Story-wise, there is also a good deal of terrifying dark humor in the film. Sartael, the main demon you will be exposed to, at times is something out of a slapstick, Three Stooges sketch. And it’s a beautiful (and unsettling) contrast to his flawlessly executed and frightening appearance. I also got quite a kick out of the constant “slapping” gags.
On that note, the makeup work is jaw-dropping. Other than the slight hiccup in the obvious (sometimes) CGI on Sartael’s tail – you’ll be immensely impressed at the work of the special effects and makeup crew. Not to overstate it, but I’d reckon Sartael’s makeup (and that of the other creatures eventually represented) is Oscar-worthy. No joke.
Performance-wise, this film hits it out of the park. Nominated for several acting awards at FilmQuest, including a call-out for Best Ensemble Cast in a Feature – from the largest role to the smallest extra – every one of these actors sold me.
In that sea of seasoned and amazing performances, the show is completely stolen by Eneko Sagardoy as the demon Sartael. In what is clearly an extensive amount of makeup work, he is still able to bring immense character, emotion and humor to his performance. (I would interject that old saying of “the eyes are the window to the soul”, thus explaining how his performance is so powerful from behind the mask – but Sartael doesn’t have a soul, does he?”) His skills here earned him a Best Supporting Actor in a Feature award at this year’s FilmQuest. And while I sometimes question final decisions by any festival judges (it’s all subjective, folks) – there is no argument of any kind with handing over the trophy to Sagardoy. In addition to his thrilling ability to display emotion, his impressive physicality cannot be underplayed when examining his work. Truly, Sartael is a brilliantly-written character brought to life by a brilliantly-gifted actor.
As the titular blacksmith, Kandido Uranga brings the ideal mix of angry old man (“get off of my lawn” – literally) and kind-hearted, selfless “grandpa”. It’s a wonderful change of character as the film goes on – and as Patxi bonds with little Usue (Uma Bracaglia’s hysterical and emotive performance), your heart will melt. It’s a wonderful bit of chemistry between the two actors – and nowhere is that more apparent than when they take to taunting Sartael together. The laughter, the mutual joy and the bonding makes their little connection a heartfelt sight to behold. At the heart of this dark fable, is this special relationship – perfectly written and perfectly realized by these two actors.
And now comes the reference to “what kind of sleepovers did he attend?” Once the film descends into the underworld (for reasons I’ll not spoil here) and takes the audience to the very gates of hell, the film goes beyond its already brilliant design and ups the ante. And with the fiery details of this location, there are also pangs of deep pain in your mind as the images and lost souls shuffle across the screen. In the midst of the story and these sympathetic characters, these are horrific visions which will stick with you, disturb you and remind you of something darker and deeper – with an almost Holocaust-esque power. It’s quite jarring. I mean, you can figure from the story’s trajectory that this is where we might end up. But to have it be so harrowing and detailed and breathtaking and frightening – that’s certainly unexpected.
So again – if I were watching ’80s movie gems like Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, what did director Urkijo Alijo have in his DVD player or VCR all of those years ago? But I won’t judge. Whatever it was, it brought him to this cinematic brilliance, so…
At this year’s FilmQuest, the film was nominated for a bevy of awards (winning a whopping FIVE), including: Best Feature Film (WIN), Best Feature Director – Paul Urkijo Alijo (WIN), Best Feature Screenplay – Paul Urkijo Alijo, Best Supporting Actor in a Feature – Eneko Sagardoy (WIN), Best Ensemble Cast in a Feature, Best Feature Cinematography – Gorka Gomez Andreu, Best Sound in a Feature, Best Score for a Feature, Best Production Design in a Feature, Best Costumes in a Feature (WIN), Best Visual Effects in a Feature and Best Makeup in a Feature (WIN).
With a stunning aesthetic, an ensemble of remarkable actors and a lovely central relationship, Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil can garner nothing less than a perfect score.
And although the film is a sometimes humorous childhood fable (based on a tale told to Urkijo Alijo as a child) – it is exceedingly dark in many moments. So once you’re done viewing this (at your next sleepover perhaps), I’d suggest a nice, easy screening of… let’s say Weird Science.
Whatever double feature you plan with your friends – make Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil one of the choices.
Rumor has it that the film already has a streaming deal – so prep your next overnight get-together with your chums, put on some comfy pajamas and light up the microwave with a bag of popcorn… and prepare yourself for this delightful cinematic treat.