DAY FIVE November 7, 2005
7 VIRGINS Chronicles a 48-Hour Journey Into Maturity
by Peter Martin
Tano wants to get high, have sex with his girlfriend,
ride around on his motor scooter and hang out with his friends. Sounds like a typical teenage weekend, except that the clock is ticking
for Tano: he must return to a juvenile detention center
within 48 hours.
Set in a ragged, low-rent neighborhood in the south of Spain, 7 VIRGINS quickly establishes that Tano wants to follow his older brother Santacana's admonition to stay out of trouble. Santacana is getting
married, which is why Tano was temporarily released
into his custody. Santacana
allows Tano to head off alone on his scooter, hoping that his brother has matured during his incarceration.
Tano's best intentions, however,
are undermined by his incorrigible best friend, Richi, and it's not long before a wallet
is stolen and the boys are running from a security guard. As the two careen around town, Tano tries to rein in Richi's criminal impulses while resisting his own.
7 VIRGINS bubbles with propulsive energy. At first it feels fizzy and light, like a carbonated beverage, but during the course of the story an unexpected depth of emotion
As played by Juan Jose Ballesta--well known in Spain for his work in television and film--Tano is shown to be a born romantic in tender scenes with his girlfriend Patri (Alba Rodriguez, in her first acting role). In contrast, he ripples with machismo when he's around Richi (newcomer Jesus Carroza), and is genuinely confused when dealing with his brother Santacana (veteran actor Vicente Romero).Director Alberto Rodriguez was initially concerned about issues of tone and consistency
when blending performances between experienced and inexperienced
actors. "We did it by treating them all in the same manner--and also, to be honest, with a lot of patience," he says. "To relax, we tried to make it look like it was some sort of game--most of the kids are only 16 or 17 years old. We didn't want rehearsals or the shoot itself
to seem like the typical office job where you have to come in every morning and clock in."
Shot over a period of eight weeks, the film was inspired by the time Rodriguez spent playing soccer with young people at a juvenile detention
center where his sister worked. "One day, I realized that the center was simply a jail for the kids and that is what inspired me [to make] a film about teenagers who are prisoners of their own fate," he says. "I feel a kinship with the sense of humanity we've tried to instill in the characters,
with their continuous emotional duality, with that constant wavering between what I want to do and what I should do."
As a child, Rodriguez saw relatively few films, but was most impressed by François Truffaut's THE WILD CHILD and Don Siegel's INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. The desire to actually make movies came later. "I always liked to write stories and make things up," he says, "and I thought that cinema was a good way of telling stories, but I was already in college when I realized it. I was a late bloomer."
Released a few weeks ago in its native Spain, 7 VIRGINS has proven to be very popular.
Still, while happy with its success thus far, Rodriguez says it would be silly to worry about a film's commercial prospects: "The alchemist who can predict that has not yet been born."
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