HBO Spain premieres this adaptation of Fernando Aramburu’s novel this coming 27th September
Before Fernando Aramburu’s novel “Patria” had become a best-selling phenomenon, Basque screenwriter Aitor Gabilondo had already taken an interest in the complex and emotional tale of two families separated by the violence of ETA. One, led by Bittori (Elena Irureta), breaks down when the gang murders her husband, Txato. The crime definitely separates her from her friend Miren (Ane Gabarain), whose son joins the terrorist group’s ranks. Coinciding with the organization’s ceasefire, Bittori decides to return to the town she fled from in search of answers. Captivated by the story, Gabilondo bought the rights to the book and began to shape a series that, in eight episodes, completes a journey of pain and memories through almost three decades of terrorism in the Basque Country. After three years of work, HBO premieres this long-awaited television adaptation in more than 60 countries, including Spain on 27th September.
Directed by Félix Viscarret and Óscar Pedraza, “Patria” proved at its premiere at the San Sebastián International Film Festival that it lives up to expectations and, incidentally, ended the controversy that had dragged on since the premiere of its first promotional poster, which was criticized for its “equidistance”. He faithfully complies with the rule that Aramburu set for himself when he wrote his work: never lose sight of the victims’ pain and treat them with affection and empathy. Change the shape, for the better, but not the backdrop.
Yet, the screen version of “Patria”, which according to its creator would be better titled “Matria”, is even cruder than the novel as the images impact audiences with a force that can often be cushioned by the reader’s imagination. As such, you’d have to fight hard to hold the tears back when the series depicts Txato’s murder or his daughter Nerea’s reaction to the event. Fortunately, Bittori’s monologues with her husband’s tombstone and Miren’s with the image of Saint Ignatius of Loyola furnishes a tragicomedy moments that help alleviates the most distressing points.
The entire cast in “Patria”, led by the boundless Elena Irureta and Ane Gabarain, are Basque, a point in its favor, not merely because of the authenticity of their accents, but also because they have first-hand knowledge of the experiences they’re portraying. And it makes no difference that we’re accustomed to having these leading lights make us laugh in productions like “Down There”, here they both demonstrate their equivalent dominium of the most dramatic emotions. And, what’s even more complicated, they are equally as compelling at every stage of their characters’ development. The results of makeup and hairstyling by Karmele Soler and Sergio Pérez Berbel are sufficient stimulus to definitively abandon digital experiments and their on-screen relatives are not far behind: José Ramón Soroiz (Txato), Iñigo Arambarri (Xabier), Susana Abaitua (Nerea), Mikel Laskurain (Joxian), Jon Olivares (Joxe Mari), Loreto Mauleón (Arantxa) and Eneko Sagardoy (Gorka ).
The crew recorded practically the entire series in the Basque Country, between Soraluze, Elgoibar and San Sebastián, except for a few days spent in Madrid. The omnipresent rain creates that dense atmosphere, full of silence, which invites us to reflect on a recent conflict for many and almost unknown to younger generations. Given the emotional intensity, bingeing on “Patria” might be overdoing things, whereas savoring it little by little is almost an obligation.