To say that El Pastor is a thing of beauty is an understatement. The endless, broad landscapes of central Spain play a crucial role not only in the film’s stunning visuals, but also in the feeling of overwhelming isolation in this big, commercially-obsessed world. Director, writer and cinematographer Jonathan Cenzual Burley allows the landscape to be a silent key player in this visually breathtaking tale of a poor, ordinary life turned upside down.
Shepherd Anselmo (Miguel Martin) lives a very simple, honest life alone on his farmland. He spends his days in his one room house, surrounded by just his flock and his faithful dog. Occasionally, he ventures slightly out of his isolation with visits to the local bar or the nearby town’s library where he reads Dickens and befriends the kindhearted librarian. Other than that, his days are all very much the same.
But the vast land that he and his sheep live on has suddenly become much sought-after by developers. Quickly follows anger from his neighbours for not selling up, and it’s here that the film takes a sudden, darker turn. The landscape goes from remote yet tranquil, to blood-soaked and all-consuming. Burley’s cinematography remains a key player in this abrupt change of emotion; the colours switching from natural beige hues to deep pinks, blues, and almost pitch-black night time shots.
Burley’s direction lets the story slowly and carefully unfold, never idealising Anselmo’s simple life which could have easily been construed as ‘quaint’.
For a film that starts off as a fairly easy yet delightful watch, El Pastor perfectly switches to a thrilling and engulfing tale of jealousy and spite. The story may not be very original or complex, but you’ll find yourself drawn in and backing Anselmo from the get-go.
CAST: Maribel Iglesias, Miguel Martín, Alfonso Mendiguchía
WRITER: Jonathan Cenzual Burley
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Cenzual Burley
SYNOPSIS: El Pastor follows how a lonely shepherd’s home and way of life is threatened when building promoters become interested in his land.