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El Sur PG rating

Victor Erice’s second masterpiece, following The Spirit of the Beehive, is a rarely seen meditation on memory, deception and Spain’s 20th-century history.

Drama 1983 94 mins

Director: Víctor Erice



A young girl in northern Spain is fascinated by her father’s mysterious past and his childhood in the pre-civil-war south. Spain’s enigmatic master Victor Erice has completed only three features since 1973, but each one is an exquisite masterpiece. El Sur is the second of these, a film which endured torrid production difficulties and a troubled distribution history – but whose power and beauty endures.

It was intended to be twice as long, with the second-half moving from northern to southern Spain. But shooting was curtailed by the producer, and Erice was urged to edit existing footage into the cut that we know today. It’s tempting to think of what might have been, and the director considered this to be an incomplete drama; Pedro Almodóvar is one of many who disagree, telling an audience at BFI Southbank “I cry every time I watch it.”