It could very well have been that I woke up a bit sentimental today, that the dedication to Howard Zinn was touching because it reminded me of the time he gave me a hug after autographing a copy of his celebrated book “A People’s History of the United States,” or simply that I may be getting old and soft, but, to be honest, I believe that I cried like a child while watching “Even the Rain” because Paul Laverty is a screenwriter who has a sensibility for this art and his dramatic effort—although considered melodramatic by some—resonated well and deep within my human composition, in spite of my membership in the group of those who have been oppressed.
My emphasis on Laverty does not intend to minimize the work of the director, Icíar Bollaín, or that of the well-cast actors, but, as a writer myself, I pay close interest to creations I consider laudable and Laverty’s work is something I wish I could emulate.
Rather than being a film within a film—like it has mistakenly been described, for in addition to the internal film there exists both an implicit and an explicit “documentary” element—“Even the Rain” can be regarded as a piece of conceptual art in the sense that it presents established symbolism to deconstruct it and/or utilize it for an ultimate purpose in order to evoke a response that is invariably filtered through the cultural lenses of viewers. One may argue that such is the case with every film or every piece of art, but that is exactly my point.
In this analysis, I am reminded of Gabriel Orozco’s assertion that the purpose of his art was to disappoint the expectations of those who wanted to be amazed. In one of those conundrums of destiny—or the capricious nature of an audience—it could be argued that Orozco created a paradoxical self-fulfilling prophesy in the sense that audiences resolved their cognitive dissonance upon seeing his work by finding amusement in that which the artist created to disappoint them, a phenomenon that Barry Schwabsky has called “Amazement in Reverse.” In the case of “Even the Rain,” however, amazement finds no automatic reversal because the historical symbolism presented in grand scale, by virtue of the fact that it can only be discerned from the partisan filter of the viewer’s cultural legacy, results in a reaction that replicates the mechanisms it is attempting to confront. As such, for the established film reviewer, “Even the Rain” will be a lacking film in the lines of those previously written by Laverty; for the paternalistic established film reviewer, a sensible work that deserves consideration; for a conservative audience, an example of Marxist dialectics; for a Marxist, the trivialization of Marxist ideals by the film industry; for an Indigenous audience perhaps exploitation, vindication, or nothing at all, etc. And this is the beauty of the script, and the film itself, in the sense of conceptual art, for even in its stereotypification of symbolism for dramatic purposes it acts as a mirror of the viewers’ own prejudices.
This may also be the reason why “Even the Rain” was dedicated to the legacy of Howard Zinn, for his intention as a historian was not that of presenting a self-serving alternative view of history, as critics have claimed—some of whom were self-serving revisionist historians. That is, Zinn intended to present a mirror from the perspective of the oppressed to serve as a projection screen in order for the historically privileged to learn something about empathy.
Now, that is conceptual history.