Elisa, vida mía is a 1977 Spanish drama film written and directed by Carlos Saura. The film stars Saura’s long-term companion and frequent collaborator, Geraldine Chaplin. She stars alongside, Fernando Rey who won the Best Actor award at the 1977 Cannes Film Festival for his performance.
‘ELISA, VIDA MIA’ By Vincent Canby Published: March 11, 1983
NEAR the end of Carlos Saura’s ”Elisa, Vida Mia,” Fernado Rey, in the role of an aging ascetic named Luis, talks movingly to his daughter, Elisa (Geraldine Chaplin), about his youthful artistic pretensions. He recalls that he used to spend hours and days polishing a letter, getting the syntax right, refining the thoughts and elevating the tone. Now, he admits, he prefers the spontaneous letter, unrefined, natural, with crossed-out words. Luis has no interest in Art.
Yet Art is mostly what ”Elisa, Vida Mia” seems to be about.
There is, at its heart, a small, coherent story about the reunion of Luis and Elisa after a 20-year separation. The principal setting is Luis’s remote farmhouse in an extremely photogenic part of Castile, where he works on what seems sometimes to be his autobiography and sometimes a novel. The autobiography-novel consists mostly of Luis’s fantasies about Elisa’s life, her failed marriage and her recollections of her childhood, including the day he walked out on the family.
Sometimes we see these events as they are remembered or imagined by Luis, sometimes as Elisa’s very own fantasies. In between we see scenes of their week together at the farm.
Mr. Saura’s cross-cuts between reality and fantasy exemplify the sort of Art Luis says he so abhors. ”Elisa, Vida Mia” is a mostly passionless, intellectual sort of puzzle, with clues provided by classy literary and musical references.
The main reasons to see the film are the two leading performances. Mr. Rey is always an interesting presence, and Miss Chaplin, as in all of her Saura films, reveals qualities of feeling, control and beauty that no other directors have ever found.
Young Ana Torrent, of ”The Spirit of the Beehive,” is seen briefly as Elisa as a little girl. In the fantasies and flashbacks, Miss Chaplin also plays her own mother, which leads to a certain amount of intentional confusion about the relations of the father and the daughter.