Esteemed Catalan composer and pianist Enrique Granados is credited with some of the finest classical and operatic pieces of music to ever emerge from Spain. In this thoughtful and moving documentary from veteran filmmaker Arantxa Aguirre, we’re treated to an intimate portrait of Granados as a young man finding his way in the world, achieving the mainstream success he craved and ultimately having his life snatched away from him prematurely by a cruel twist of fate.
The difficulties inherent in crafting a biopic about someone who died over a century ago mean that there is no video footage upon which to rely and even very few photographic images to help flesh out our impression of the man. Undeterred, Aguirre demonstrates her knack for creativity by using animation and sketchwork to recreate the Barcelona, Paris and New York of Granados’ time, overlaying it all with the beautiful compositions of the film’s subject.
The end result is a poignant piece of cinema which informs at the same time as it emotes. Alongside the deftly crafted animated scenes, the other standout moments are when Granados’ most celebrated pieces are given a modern makeover, either through singer and pianist, or else interpretative dance and song. The pathos and passion which his work stirs in the performers is plain for the camera to pick up, underlining the scale of his contributions to the world of classical music.
Aguirre has an impressive pedigree in pacing and fleshing out stories set to music and Love and Death is no different. From the arresting image of the boundless ocean at the film’s outset, we’re taken on what seems at times to be a meandering and desultory stroll through Granados’ life, from his time learning his craft in Paris to his return to Barcelona and finally his illustrious but ill-fated trip across the Atlantic. The overall sensations thrown up by the film are ones of beauty tinged with sadness, which seem to be a good fit for a man who appears to have been as sensitive as he was brilliant.
Screening as part of the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival 2020