We near the end of the Spanish Civil War and a group of men are roaming the land killing those that disagree with them.
These men are trigger happy, killing without thought or remorse, believing they are cleansing Spain to make way for a new Spain.
When, one evening, they enter a house to seek out the father and alleged 16-year old son, one of the soldiers Rogelio, Karra Elejalde (“Spanish Affair”, “Even The Rain”), becomes disturb as the youngest son, all of ten years old, keeps stairing at him through the whole affair.
The men take the father and son away and shoot them, leaving their bodies in a field near the house. The youngest son witnesses this and, once the soldiers leave, he buries the bodies all by himself, witnessed by a local snitch Carlos Areces (“The Last Circus”, “I’m So Excited!”). After burying his father and brother, the boy plants the sapling of a fig-tree.
Rogelio does his best to forget the boy and continue his duties, but he can’t. He even sets up for the boy to join the church but still, he can’t forget the boy, convinced that when he turns 16, he’s going to come and kill him.
To atone for his sins, Rogelio decides to care for the fig-tree sapling and nurture it. But he becomes obsessed by it, guarding it from everyone and anyone and becoming a hermit in the process, revered by many as a god, frowned on by others as a smelly old hermit bringing the town down.
The Bastards’ Fig Tree is a darkly humoured film, I mean the whole premise is a tad weird, so you’d have to find humour in it!
Luckily Elejalde performs admirably in his role of trigger-happy revolutionist who turns into a hermit seeking salvation the only way he knows how.
He just wants to let the tree grow but others want to look for other meanings (not everyone knows about the bodies buried beneath) and more yet want him out of the way, for good.
Despite a runtime of an hour and 43 minutes I was surprised by the ending. It’s abrupt and didn’t feel quite as well thought out as the rest of the film, though perhaps the novel on which it is based would provide more insight into things.
There’s not a great deal we can say about The Bastards’ Fig Tree. It is what it is, a man guarding a tree from various people who come to visit it for various reasons.
It has its funny moments, the poignant moments sort of get lost in it all, and it ends somewhat abruptly. But it is funny, it’s well shot and well written, both by Ana Murugarren (“Tres Mentiras”, “La Dama Guerrera”).