The Stoneraft

on May 16, 2003 by Susan Green
   The satire is so mild in "The Stoneraft" that the premise--a sudden rift in the Pyrenees, dislodging Spain and Portugal from the rest of Europe--prompts more yawns than laughter. The late Peter Sellers could have given this subject matter some bite, as he did while inhabiting three roles in 1959's "The Mouse That Roared." Based on a novel by Nobel Prizewinner Jose Saramago, the contemporary film is hardly Ealing Comedy material. Director/co-writer George Sluizer does not dig deep enough in the mire of social significance to find the hilarity that tends to hide there. The man's career has been decidedly uneven. He created a first version of "The Vanishing" in 1988 as a brilliantly understated thriller, but his 1993 American remake had no such restraint.

   "Stoneraft" gathers five strangers who have been blessed, or perhaps cursed, with unusual powers. A teacher (Gabino Diego) is followed everywhere by a flock of starlings. A fisherman (Diogo Infante) tosses a small boulder that skips across the water like a pebble. A young woman (Ana Padrao) uses a walking stick to draw a line in the dirt that cannot be erased. A widow (Iciar Bollain) unraveling a blue sock ends up with a ball of wool that fills her barn. A pharmacist (Federico Luppi) can feel the earth tremble, which may be directly linked to the fact that the Iberian Peninsula has begun floating out to sea.

   The intended magic realism is drab. After brief references to the British declaring sovereignty over Gibraltar and American scientists trying to literally sew the continent back together again, the story's vestigial irony quickly dissipates. As the quintet travels in search of answers, a rambling road movie ensues at a soporific pace. The plot's intriguing environmental and political changes are burdened by endless philosophizing--a meditative rather than irreverent approach to global catastrophe.    Starring Federico Luppi, Iciar Bollain, Gabino Diego, Ana Padrao and Diogo Infante. Directed by George Sluizer. Written by Yvette Biro and George Sluizer. Produced by Fernando Bovaira and Luis Bordallo Silva. No distributor yet. Fantasy/Drama. Spanish-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 111 min.

Tags: Federico Luppi, Iciar Bollain, Gabino Diego, Ana Padrao, Diogo Infante, George Sluizer, Yvette Biro, Fernando Bovaira, Luis Bordallo Silva, Fantasy/Drama, Spanish, Europe, powers

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