Set amidst the golden wheat fields of the Spanish countryside El Septimo Dia a.k.a The Seventh Day (2004) tells the story of two rivaling families entangled in a web of deadly odium. Directed by legendary Spanish director Carlos Saura (Cria Cuervos) the premise for the film was inspired by the tragic events that took place in the village of Puerto Hurraco in the summer of 1992.
Like most of Saura's films The Seventh Day benefits from an unusually well put-together script as well as a marvelous cast revealing some rather well known names: Victoria Abril (Kika), Juan Diego (La Vida Que Te Espera a.k.a Your Next Life), Jose Luis Gomes (Gitano a.k.a Gypsy), Yohana Cobo (Almodovar's Volver). Furthermore, the film is also complimented by Roque Banos' fabulous soundtrack who prior to his involvement with this project contributed to Brad Anderson's The Machinist (2004).
It is the simple yet brutal story of The Seventh Day however that will leave an indelible mark on you. The two rivaling families that become the focus of attention in this violent film about revenge are indeed marvelously portrayed by the all-star Spanish cast (Victoria Abril in particular as the insane Luciana is a beauty to behold) and from what I gather Carlos Saura has attempted to remain as truthful to the true story as possible.
The exceptionally beautiful cinematography in The Seventh Day I also believe will hardly surprise those familiar with the works of the Spanish maestro. In fact, I find a number of similarities in the manner Carlos Saura moves his camera while at the same time his protagonists remain still. As it was the case with Goya in Bordeaux (1999) where the camera would often "freeze" on Francisco Rabal's face unveiling the madness raging in the painter's soul in The Seventh Day, especially in the second half of the film preceding the massacre, the director employs precisely the same technique: long, continuous shots are used to exacerbate the heavy presence of "hate" which will eventually drive the two families into the abyss of madness.
I think it is fare to conclude that you will either love the stylistic direction which Carlos Saura follows in his work or find it a tad repetitive. The strong emphases on Spanish folklore, Spanish mentality, as well as the reoccurring fascination with irrational behavior certainly have prevented the director from expanding his comfort zone: the traditional Spanish themes. Yet I find these specific characteristics to be the most appealing aspects of Calros Saura's work. After all, put Almodovar aside and there is hardly another Iberian director as influential and well-respectrd throughout international film forums as Carlos Saura is.
In 2005 The Seventh Day won the Award of the Spanish Actors Union for Performance in a Minor Role: Victoria Abril; Best Director Award at the Montreal World Film Festival (Carlos Saura); CEC Award/Cinema Writers Circle Awards-Spain, Best Supporting Actor Award (Juan Diego).
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's The Seventh Day looks very good. Colors are strong, contrast is of excellent quality, and detail is very impressive. The progressive PAL print reveals very little that one can criticize: there is no damage that I can report. During daylight scenes, especially when Saura's camera moves around the wheat fields, there is a very minor presence of edge enhancement but overall the image quality is solid. Film grain is present during the night scenes and I am glad to report that the print herein reviewed has preserved a very flim-like quality. To sum it all up this is indeed one fine looking Spanish disc that should impress those appreciating the work of Carlos Saura. PAL-encoded, Region 2.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with a Castellan 2.0 and 5.1 mixes the audio is of exceptional high quality. Dialog is crystal clear and easy to follow, there are no audio pop-ups or hissings, and I am extremely happy with the manner background music has been mixed as to not interfere with the speech of the actors. The disc comes with optional English (white, small) subtitles revealing excellent English translation devoid of improper syntax errors or generic typos. Indeed, a perfectly handled audio treatment.
Unfortunately, all that is present on this disc are a few generic extras that in my opinion fail to further elaborate on the story behind the film or its execution. What you will find here is: a short synopsis (in Spanish plain text), a trailer for the main feature, a Making-Of which appear without English subtitles, and a plain section of Filmographies for the main actors.
I have an enormous amount of respect for the work of Carlos Saura and I find it criminal that he is being treated with such disrespect in North America. Aside from Sony Pictures and their now outdated release of Goya in Bordeaux, and Vanguard's utterly disappointing release of Isabelle Adjani's Antonieta (sans a few early and now OOP poor discs as well) the Spanish director has been de facto denied US access. To be honest I also thought that it will be Carlos Saura that will launch Criterion's foray into Spanish cinema. I guess I have been wrong. Not having Cria Cuervos (1976), the Grind Prize Cannes winner or the director's earlier La Caza (1966) for film fans to appreciate the talent of this monumental Spanish director is truly sad. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.