Ana Torrent(the dark-eyed beauty from The Spirit if the Beehive) portrays the disturbed 8 year old Ana,living in Madrid with her two sisters,mourning the death of her mother whom she conjures as a ghost.The children are in their summer vacations. Cria Cuervos is about the wounded feminine psyche that is Spain.The male patriarchy of Franco's Spain is represented by Ana's father,who was a General in Franco's army, and like Franco is about to die.Women in Catholic Spain have been repressed,subdued,stereo-typed.Ana's mother(Chaplin) has had to give up a career as a pianist to become a housewife in a loveless marriage,whose husband,a philanderer, refuses to understand her depression or talk to her.The film is about the ghosts of memory,the psychological interpenetration of the past,present and future,reality and fantasy,in Ana's head.Her aunty is responsible for the sisters' care.
Porque te vas,the juvenile pop song sung by Jeannette, which expresses Ana's rebellion,is in fact an ode to lost loves, abandoned hopes. For the singer,even the sun shining on a city window is a sign that her lover must soon leave. The present may thus prove as depressing as the past.For Ana,the past is not past,we see her interacting with her dead mother as if she is still alive.When the sisters play dress-up,it is to expertly recreate the bitter arguments of their dead parents.Her interactions with her mother(Geraldine Chaplin),is fantasised by the grieving child.What will become of Spain with Franco's death(indirectly alluded to in Porque te vas)?Spain has been ruled by a fascist military junta since 1939, for 36 years Spain has been under tight social control.Saura shows the intimacy that the living and dead cohabit especially when fragile psyches are frozen in time by trauma.Although this was not made as a political film, Saura had made critiques of Franco in previous films, but had not been censored in this one and had total artistic control. The title refers to the baleful effects of Franco's Fascist regime on children.Trauma is linked to repression.Their auntie doesn't want to discuss their parents with them,but they learn more from fleshly housekeeper Rosa(e.g. when the war ended).The girls brandish the guns they say their father has left them(Ana will take aim at her hated aunt),a legacy of the violence bequeathed from one generation to another from guilty,forgetful adults to uncomprehending children.Little Ana inherits her father's dark side, believing she has incurred her father's death or poisoned her aunty with drinks of poison,she believes she has power over life and death. She plays a game of hide and seek with her sisters,asks them to be dead,then brings them back to life.This bad education is the meaning of the title,from a Spanish proverb:"Raise ravens and they'll peck out your eyes." But in reality the young have been doomed by their parents' generation to live in an anachronistic world of lies and illusion.Ana's mother on her death bed says its all lies,meaning also that there's no after-life,no God,nothing.
The house is a metaphor of the regime shut off behind barriers,the venetian blinds mimic prison bars,its deathly quiet broken by noisy shots of the street outside, with its lurid posters for consumer goods and oppressively heavy traffic.Saura suggests that memories may be repressed,but, like the inescapable sounds of the city,they will return as ghosts,haunting all Spaniards as they do the characters in Cria Cuervos. With little guidance and supervision, the children create an insular world that reflects the conflict, pain, and uncertainty of the enigmatic and impenetrable adult world around them.They escape from patriarchy in the scene where the girls dance together.The girls accept or reject the roles imposed on them.The girls thus submit to having their hair combed but flatly refuse to eat decorously.The girls look ahead to an uncertain future in which they may not have the control they'd like over their destinies.Chaplin's grown-up Ana says:"I remember childhood as an interminably long and sad time." But as she loaths it, she also longs for it too.The adult Ana is played by the same actress as her mother,because she is condemmed to repeat her mother's mistakes,locked in a repetition compulsion.
She recalls her childhood animosity to her callous,philandering father,blaming him for her mother's slow illness and death.Childhood, the ghost story she tries to understand, it being a time of radical invincibility, interminable ,sad,full of potency.Saura through the cinematography aligns us with the little girl's point of view, using subjective shots as she contemplates her dead father and adulteries.By juxtaposing low angle medium shots(the children's perspective)with fluid crane shots of a bird's-eye view, there is an incongruous unity of child naivete with an ominous sense of instinctive cruelty,a tragic and unresolved legacy of a lost and misguided childhood.Irene's dream of her kidnapping asks if they are being educated for a world that no longer exists?Walking in their Catholic uniforms, will it lead to a world of openness or closure,the fusion of haunted past,and indeterminate nation emerging from the shadows?.Chaplin is a revelation playing as she does a figment of a child's memory.Unforgettable.Good extras 1 hour life of Saura,interviews with Chaplin,Torrent,Essay on the film.