May 5, 2009
Long Journey to the Rage, 1969
Similar to Llorenç Soler's previous film, 52 Sundays, Long Journey to the Rage is also a sobering portrait of poverty and marginalization. And like the bullfighting students of his earlier film, the people in Long Journey to the Rage are also anonymous immigrants who have abandoned a hardscrabble existence in the rural provinces in an illusive search of a better life in the city. Unable to find affordable housing, the immigrants pile into overcrowded, dilapidated apartments in rundown districts, paradoxically taking on menial jobs in a construction boom fueled by the transforming cityscape of a rapidly modernized Barcelona that systematically excludes them (a paradox that José Luis Guerín also revisits in his 2001 film, En Construcción). Soler's incisive sense of juxtaposition creates a remarkably complex and textural work from seemingly mundane images. At times, Soler contrasts rapid-fire images of luxury and conspicuous consumption - advertisements, fashion, high-rise apartment buildings, skyscrapers, fast cars (punctuated by the rhythmic precision of flamenco footwork) - against sobering accounts of exploitation and displacement that reflect the realities of economic polarization. At other times, Soler incorporates culturally iconic music to reinforce the cycle of hardship and desolation: the sound of fados as a family sleeps in a cramped apartment; Aretha Franlkin's Chain of Fools punctuating the morning commute to the city; a chorale that accompanies the image of homeless people sleeping on a vacant lot, presumably, new immigrants to the city, that cuts to the shot of the church baptism - both reflecting figurative rites of passage into a brave new world of constant struggle and ephemeral moments of grace.