"A film crew are making a documentary about Frederich Raynard, a Nazi war criminal and expert in occultism who could have ended his days in a town in Leciñana, northern Spain. What starts as an easy job soon will become a dark adventure that will change their lives forever.
With Raynard's diary in their hands and chased by a secret organisation, they will look for the help of a parapsychology professor. With him, they will soon find out their lives are in danger and the only way to save themselves is to perform one of the rituals from Raynard diary. The ritual that caused Raynard death years back."
I don't know about you, but I'm forever in awe of independent film makers. If it isn't enough that they often barely have two coins to rub together to be able to invest in the film's production, there's often little money left over to pay even the living costs of cast and crew. Actors and filmmakers often end up doing a multiple of jobs during the time of the production, invariably working in between the 'day jobs' that actually go somewhere to paying their bills. So against the odds a film finally may get made but then the battle has only really just begun, because the task now is to get some publicity in order for people to actually see the film - you never know, it may then recover the costs and even make some money.
So I suppose that the last part there is where people like myself come in. Now, I know that my dear reader unfortunately knows me far too well. I could say that I see myself as someone who wants to help these insane people who put their heart, soul and bank accounts into making a movie that could possibly only be seen by two people and their pet dog in Alaska. However, as I said you know that the truth is that this blogging lark enables me to hang on to the coat tails of these wonderfully creative people and bask in their reflective glory when success comes their way. It may be superficial, but hey, it's a hobby and keeps me off the streets - well actually it's the legal restraining orders and ankle tags that keep me off the streets....... but you know what I mean.
So apart from my raging shallowness and superficiality motivating me to help publicise a movie, it does actually help if the film in question is a little bit different in content and origin. Well I think that it's safe to say that El círculo de Raynard well and truly ticks both those boxes in abundance. The box I call 'well is it actually any good?' for the record, also contains a very, very big tick - it's wonderful.
This week Maria Valle, the film's producer and co-director, asked me if I would be interested in watching and reviewing El círculo de Raynard. If truth be told, I was at first a little reluctant to do so, the main reason being that I was little busy with something else and didn't feel as if I would have the time - that was until I heard some details about the film...... A Spanish made horror with elements of time-bending Scifi, Nazi war Criminals, the occult and the paranormal all rolled into one feature - what isn't there to like???!!! I was hooked.
Maria went on to tell me that the movie is a blend of history, found footage, mockumentary and narrative. It centers on a film crew making a documentary about Frederich Raynard, a Nazi war criminal and occult expert who like many of his like never got caught or turned up dead after the war. Instead he was believed to have possibly ended his days in a town in northern Spain. With Raynard’s diary with them, what starts as an easy job soon becomes a dark adventure that will change their lives forever.
El círculo de Raynard is a low cost movie with a budget of just 12000 euros that has taken since seven years to see the light of day. In 2009 Maria and her colleagues started writing the script, which took a year and then in 2010 they shot the movie throughout the whole year during weekends and holidays. But what the heck inspired a story of Nazi war criminals and the occult? Well as Maria herself told me; " When we first started writing the film we knew we wanted to make a Scifi movie, we also knew it was going to be difficult for budget reasons and because it's an unusual genre for a Spanish movie. Our screenwriters Manuel Vidal and Rául González are big fans of all the secret societies that came up during the second world war and all the mysteries and mysticism that surrounds them. To add veracity to the project we decided to start the film with a mockumentary that fitted Spain, because Nazi precedents can be found in Spain. This plot gave us a new world to develop the story."
You may wonder if a film that mixes a number of filming styles (documentary, found-footage and traditional narrative) works - well yes it does.
The one aspect that constantly shines through is the abundance of enthusiasm in all that are taking part in front and behind the camera. The opening first 10 to 15 minutes 'documentary' section is nicely made, serving as a handy device to provide the viewer with lots of tasty background information on the dastardly Nazi, Frederich Raynard and his dastardly Nazi secret society together with their dastardly fascination for the dealings of the occult and paranormal. The section also serves to provide a chance to get to know some of the ensemble cast of the piece - namely the driven documentary director, the sassy presenter and the disgruntled camera & sound assistants - In fact all the cast are very good, with Natalia Diaz especially excellent as Sara, effectively conveying her journey from initial professional optimism after being introduced to this secretive occult reality, only to slowly realise the pain and horror that in fact awaits.
Soon the traditional narrative section takes place as the group delve deeper into the mystery that is unfolding before them. While is could be argued that the script may not be quite as tight and crisp as it could be at times the actors nonetheless manage to skilfully convey the impending sense of foreboding and doom that their investigation has unfolded. This results in an atmosphere of genuine chill and several moments of nerve-jangling suspense.
El círculo de Raynard clearly wears its heart and influences on its sleeve with the odd nod and a wink to a number of thematic origins whilst still remaining distinctly original in it's own narrative approach. Yes there some clear philosophical elements about the Nazis,the occult and secret societies, but don't worry those of you who like your horror not to be overly preachy or ambitious because there are a number of genuinely atmospheric and exciting set pieces throughout the third act of the drama.
This film provides a totally unexpected richly visceral experience, both on a visual and auditory level. For a start it looks wonderful with a rich tone of colour, texture and lighting which all serve to very nicely enhance the atmospheric narrative. The quality is such that visually the film completely belies the fact that it cost so little to make, it simply doesn't look cheap at all. In fact, so impressive is the visual element that I've now watched the film again without the sound and the overall effect is still striking.
As I said earlier, I simply have no limits of admiration of the tenacity needed to complete the film production process as shown by the makers here. From the moment of inception back in 2009, almost every spare moment from day jobs was invested in the film. The main problem that Maria and the crew had was that they ad very little money. This meant that the writing of the script not only had to ensure a good tight plot but also take into account the need to use everything that was available. As a consequence, frequent adjustments to the script were constantly needed to tie in with something that they could shoot. All the people involved were friends and everybody worked for free which was very tricky when they were shooting because we had to find days when everybody was available.
The post-production took around 2 years as all the post-production crew had to work on the movie at night or during weekends. By then they thought their job was done but they hadn't taken into account that they had to take care of the promotion as well. So for the past 2 years the team have been doing just that with El círculo de Raynard travelling around the world for almost one year now, participating in 12 international film festivals and winning 3 awards: Best SciFright Film in the Boston SciFi Film Festival, Best Film Award in the Artelesia Film Festival in Italy and the Special Jury Award at the Detective Film Fest in Moscow.
So where can the public see the movie? El círculo de Raynard tcan be rented (2 euros) or bought (5 euros) in vimeo on demand at the following link: vimeo.com/ondemand/raynard. Here you can find the first 14 minutes of the film for free, which is basically the opening documentary.
To find out more about El círculo de Raynard then visit their official website at www.elcirculoderaynard.com