‘The Rite of Spring’ aspires to the Golden Shell and recounts the luminous relationship between a virgin girl and a young man with cerebral palsy played by Gipuzkoan Telmo Irureta
José Luis Rebordinos was not deceiving: the harvest of Spanish cinema this year is to take off his hat. After the good taste in the mouth left by ‘La Maternal’, by Pilar Palomero’, ‘Girasoles Salvajes’, by Jaime Rosales, and ‘Suro’, by Mikel Gurrea, the last Spanish film in competition has also garnered applause for the delicacy with which Fernando Franco addresses rough issues. The Sevillian director has never stopped when it comes to talking about, let’s say, complicated issues. In 2013 he made his debut in San Sebastian with ‘The Wound’, a portrait of an ambulance driver played by Marián Álvarez who suffered from borderline personality disorder or ‘borderline’ syndrome. Four years later he narrated in the devastating ‘To die’ the decomposition of a couple when the disease makes its appearance.
‘The Rite of Spring’ already announces from its Stravinskian title that we are facing a brighter and more hopeful film. The film explores the sexuality of a virgin girl recently landed in the city, who finds warmth and welcome in the family of a disabled man. Valèria Sorolla jumps from the series to the cinema with a character that is present in all shots and whose face the director hits the camera. But just as essential as her is the supporting role of the boy with cerebral palsy, played by Gipuzkoan Telmo Irureta, who suffers from a disability in real life.
At 18, she has left a town in Mallorca for the first time to study Chemistry in Madrid. From a religious family, she lives in a college run by nuns. Confused and alone, she doesn’t quite feel comfortable between parties and dates. She tries on Tinder and sniffs out sex toys. Chance leads him to meet this boy in a wheelchair who lives with his mother (Emma Suárez), a curious, smiling and ironic guy, very aware of the effect he has on others. Surrounded in his bed by photos of naked women, defiant, horny and horny, the character of Telmo Irureta arouses the curiosity of the protagonist, who discovers that there are sexual assistants who give disabled people pleasure by masturbating them.
Valèria Sorolla and Telmo Irureta in ‘The Rite of Spring’.
‘The Rite of Spring’ is not so much in the subgenre of films about the disabled, such as ‘My Left Foot’ and ‘Untouchable’, but rather in the stories of awakening to life or, in this case, to sexuality. He appeals to humanity and kindness and avoids morbidity despite the aridity of the issues, such as the fact that there are mothers who masturbate their children with cerebral palsy. “There is not much talk about this issue, we tend not to look there,” observes Fernando Franco. “A filmmaker is responsible for what he tells because he later becomes part of the collective imagination.” The director studied for twelve years in a Jesuit college. The weight of education and religion are very present in a film that progresses slowly and will reveal to many the existence of people who sexually satisfy disabled people.
“That is the trigger for the relationship between the characters, but what happens afterwards between the two is separated from that, I didn’t want to make a film on that subject,” says the director, accustomed to leaving gaps in the narration “so that the viewer draw your conclusions.” “I am aware that I have entered a garden, but I have tried to be rigorous and respectful.”