After receiving several international awards with his trilogy of intriguing black and white short films ‘Light & Darkness’, Rubin Stein makes his feature film debut adapting the first of this series shot in 2013. He could not have chosen a better date for release a religious thriller with as much Catholic content as ‘Tin & Tina’ than at Easter. And what better company than two of the young actors of the moment as they are the protagonists of the series ‘La chica de nieve’ and ‘La casa de papel’.
Milena Smit and Jaime Lorente suddenly become parents of two ultra-conservative twins with the Old Testament after suffering an abortion. This mixture of ingredients as Spanish as the Bible, a matrimonial drama and even Francoist politics are what create the ornate symbolic hell through which its protagonists will have to go from March 31 in theaters.
The religious and political background
The novel premise is to apply today to the letter the modes of behavior reflected in the Old Testament. Taken to the extreme, the script takes advantage of religion in a very utilitarian way, removing any context or contrast with the New Testament or even with the rules of the convent where the children were raised. Once the Bible is accepted as mere artifice, it functions as entertainment and as gimmicky rather than thoughtful symbolism.
Those dialogues and religious shots are very explicit, but they don’t get to be burdensome. In the end, they fulfill their function of covering the film with an atmosphere as local as it is transcendentalbeing very well inserted in the intrigue of the children and the drama of the mother, the two elements that really move the story.
The whole package is very interesting, but in the end there is so much of it that you almost remember the film more for everything that surrounds the central drama than for the drama itself. Of course, even if I go around the same symbolisms, they are still very daring and interesting, but perhaps it was not very productive to give so much space to religion, politics or terror if they are not going to be consummated later and they are supposed to be the complement of the drama rather than its substitute, as sometimes happens.
Among those echoes to larger themes like the need for external love and the individual definition of good and evil, highlights the brilliant metaphor of the political-social context. Here the transition of Milena Smit from wife to mother does go hand in hand with that of Spain from Dictatorship to Transition.
The other key that can also be guessed from the poster is terror, but be careful with your expectations, since this is the least explored aspect of the film. Yes, there is a classic escalation of horrors maintaining the tension, but at no point does it become as explicit as religion. ‘Tin & Tina’ is not a slasher or a Sitges film, although it does (perhaps too much) go through all those typical phases.
Despite its billboard, more than ‘Funny Games’ comes close to ‘Red Rose’, with that slow-burning but very resonant drama where you know everything is getting to a very disturbing point. Just like in Ari Aster and Robert Eggerss movies, you know everything is going to blow up even if it unfolds slowly and boy does it disturb you with its ending. Best of all, when it does, it reminds us where all this paranoia is coming from: a maternal drama about the fear of loneliness and losing what you have put all your faith in, even if instead of a God they are your gods.
As the architect of this ornate cathedral, Rubin Stein shouts the meaning of each plane in its perfect and more than explicit composition. All the symbols are visible, but you have to make an effort to create their meaning, as it happens in the altars of Catholic churches. This sense of cinematographic beauty is also appreciated here to be as deep as it is accessible, and from there comes a very careful sound editing, an intelligent location in the hottest and most closed Spanish south, the effects so well used and a soundtrack as disturbing as the great classic horror films at the price of the composer of ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, Jocelyn Pook.
The consummation of good realization comes in a extremely powerful shot-sequence that confirms the good handling of the camera and the surprising optics that Stein boasts of throughout absolutely the entire footage. For all these reasons, ‘Tin and Tina’ can afford to be a horror film that does not seek to be scary, but to suggest and remove internally.
Saint Milena Smith
After overloading the background so much, the director refines the form of the film with a very theatrical development, which could not be sustained without these two protagonists as well blended as they are choreographed in the powerful matrimonial drama. By being the author of the story and the plans, Stein manages to filter all the ghosts of our most recent past through two of the current youthful icons of our cinema.
The consequences of machismo, abortion, power relations and couple dependencies vibrate in every sentence and glance of Lola and Adolfo. Just as she has been in reality, the woman becomes the scream queen of these horrors, with a sublime tour de force from Milena Smith. The true madness of the film is what the actress of ‘Parallel Mothers’ does from beginning to end, as if she were living more than acting: From the way she moves, looks, screams, cries and even limps, it can be confirmed that she is one of the best actresses in our current cinema. This paper is more than enough passport to be a national and international icon. Jaime Lorente is very generous and knows how to contain himself in each reply so that his partner can shine, but taking the opportunity to remember the maturity of his work beyond the iconic laughter of Denver.
This magnificent casting also extends to the children who give the film its title. Carlos González Morollón (‘El hotel de los líos’) and Anastasia Achikhmina (‘La Ermita’) manage to avoid being the children of Ned Flanders in his really credible and well suggested (ultra) religious upbringing. Despite the film’s slight comic concessions, neither they nor their instructor nun (Paco Rabal’s daughter, Teresa Rabal) indulge in parody.
So, ‘Tin & Tina’ also pass with flying colors the extremely difficult challenge of balancing evil with innocence, in a disturbing game that will make the viewer doubt. It is a pity that this mystery is not resolved equally satisfactorily and the development of both is unfinished at the end of the film after having made us so dizzy with the question of whether they are good or bad, if there is something supernatural or how everything is explained. But at this point, the film has already made it clear that it is better to remain in doubt and suggest than to use clichés for being more commercial.
In the end, as its outcome clearly indicates, all this on stage was a maternal drama. The excessive duration causes many turns and overloads some aspects that are as interesting as they are redundant, especially in its second third of footage (the presentation of characters and the resolution are outstanding). And on the contrary, it also leaves the frustration of unknowns unresolved in the supernatural with a result that could have been more compact, fitting the hour and a half of many horror thrillers.
Even so, You can see those aspirations to do something different and profound in a drama very overloaded with very interesting styles among which it is scattered a bit. It manages to be a good thriller, entertaining and serious, with lots of good intentions and attracting a lot of attention in various ways. Although the most memorable thing that lies beneath all that suspenseful religious artifice is the human and period drama, Milena Smith’s particular hell.
The best: A very difficult and impressive sequence-shot and the recital by Milena Smit.
Worst: The duration ends up weighing him down. The symbolisms are more explicit than profound. The frustrated expectations of unbridled madness.