El Corazon de la tierra (The Heart of the Earth) (2007)

 

 

 

 

Director:     Antonio Cuadri.

Starring:     Catalina Sandino Moreno (Blanca Bosco), Sienna Guillory (Katherine), Philip Winchester (Robert Coyle), Bernard Hill (Mr. Crown), Joaquim de Almeida (Baxter), Ana Fernández (Mercedes), Fernando Ramallo (Carlos), Juan Fernández (Nazario), Jorge Perugorría (Alcalde).

in Andalusia, 1888, a workers' protest against the miserable conditions at the local mines ends in a massacre

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

 

Riotinto, Huelva, Andalusia, Spain 1887. A man calls for his niece Kathleen. He asks the servant Ajay if he has seen Kathleen?  "Not since breakfast, Mr. Crown." Crown tells him to find Kathleen and make sure she goes to her piano lessons, for which he says he is paying a fortune.

After Crown leaves, Ajay picks up a picnic basket, pulls back a small curtain behind which there is a little space and gives the basket to the hiding Kathleen.

Kathleen runs to the town. She meets with her friend Blanca Bosco and they go running away together. They run into a mine where they meet with a boy working in the mines. They want him to go with them. He says: "You're crazy. I can't go." Blanca hands him a sandwich before he leaves them. The boy gives Blanca a kiss.

Kathleen as narrator says at the time they did not know that this was the day of the beginning of a journey that would take them a long ways from their homes. The mine is a huge open pit on which work thousands of men.

The girls go over to the train. Blanca sees a young man step off the train. He sees her and gives her a big smile.

The girls sneak on the train which soon takes off. They get off at a stop and head down to the beach on the Atlantic Ocean.

Blanca and Kathleen go to the hospital. A doctor says hello to Blanca and tells her to come over to him because he wants her to see how the typewriter works. Meanwhile, Mr. Crown berates Kathleen for leaving the house without permission. Kathleen and Ajay remain silent. So Mr. Crown says he will take the cost of the music lesson from Kathleen's allowance. He starts to leave.

Dr. White stops Mr. Crown and says: "Conditions in the mines are totally unacceptable." Mr. Crown doesn't want to be bothered, so the doctor tells him that the horrid mines are killing the children. Crown says: "That's the way things are." When the doctor balls out Crown, the mogul just says that if the doctor is unhappy here, he is sure that he can get a replacement doctor for him. That shuts up the doctor.

The man Blanca saw get off the train is a labor activist and he keeps speaking to the miners. And soon enough the men are going on strike. Mr. Crown is furious.

A year later. In his office Crown tells the mayor that they must stop the soon to arrive demonstration connected with the strike. The man says it's too late for that because people are coming from all over Huelva to support the demonstration. Crown says he's had nothing but troubles ever since the Cuban first arrived. He tells his guest that they all would be better of if they could get rid of this Maximiliano. He then tells the mayor that he must use his influence with the governor.

Crown grabs a beautiful necklace in a box and gives it to the mayor to give to the governor, who may pass it on to the governor's wife. Kathleen has come into the room and she protests: "That's my mother's necklace." The mayor takes the box and walks out.

Kathleen tells her uncle that he had no right to do that. She also brings up the charge heard from her father that Crown had cheated him. Then she says: "He died because of you."

Crown gets angry and says he risked his life to save his brother from that damn fire. He warns her that she is testing his patience "beyond endurance". Defiantly, Kathleen says she will leave this house. She will go to the demonstration. Crown tells her that she will go to her room.

The strikers drink a toast to the strike and the demonstration. The Cuban makes love to a woman. He kisses Blanca before going to the demonstration.

The demonstration is a big one. Protestors fill the streets. Blanca and her mother are there. Blanca sees Kathleen and waves to her. Kathleen waves back.

The mayor is on a railway car coming back to Riotinto. He brings with him a lot of soldiers.

As the Cuban leads the way through the streets on his horse, the substantial crowds yell their support for him and the strike.

The protestors reach the square where the Cuban holds up a baby and says they are fighting for justice for all the children.

The train arrives in town. The soldier detrain. Lt. Rincon speaks with Captain Nazario Infante. He tells him that he has orders from Governor Ulloa to stifle the rebellion here. Lt. Rincon says they won't fight their own people. The captain says he will inform the governor of Lt. Ricon's answer. So the captain will have to put down the "rebellion" with only the troops on the train.

The Cuban gives the mayor the strikers' demands. The mayor yells at the Cuban and the Cuban yells back. The mayor turns to the crowd, saying: "Stop this senseless demonstration!" The protestors back talk the mayor. Someone shouts that the mayor has sold out to the British.

Captain Infante and his troops arrive. They take up positions facing the crowd. He shouts that the demonstrators have to clear the square. The crowd doesn't move so the captain orders his troops to fire on the people. The soldiers fire and the people start running away from the square.

Dr. White and the nurses hear and see what happened. In the panic Blanca and Kathleen are separated from Blanca's mother. Blanca and Kathleen keep on running, but mother keeps getting knocked down by the fleeing demonstrators. Dr. White closes his office door and takes a shot of liquor.

The captain orders his troops to force the stragglers from the square. The troops start bayoneting people, wounded or not. The Cuban starts crying and falls to his knees. The captain points his pistol right at the head of the Cuban.

Crown hears a shot. He sends out Ajay to find his niece.

The girls hide out on the train, but the train leaves for elsewhere.

Several years later. Crown waits to receive a new employee. When the train arrives Crown welcomes Mr. Walter Baxter, the new managing director of the company. He then introduces Baxter to Kathleen and Kathleen introduces Blanca.

Blanca combs her mother's hair. Mom asks her what has she heard about Maximiliano? When will he be returning? Blanca smiles and replies: "Soon."

The new manager surveys the vastness of the pit mine.

Blanca comes to the manager's office. She can't disguise her contempt for the invading British imperialists. The manager reminds her that the people of Riotinto would have nothing if it weren't for the British and the mine. He tells her that any further resistance will be severely punished. Blanca replies that the workers and their families have already suffered enough from the deleterious results from breathing sulpher dioxide.

Dr. White tells the new manager that the effects of the sulpher dioxide from the teleras takes a terrible toll on the workers' lungs. [The teleras look like very small volcanic cones with gases rising up and out of the top of the cones of the teleras.] The doctor is interrupted by a report that one of the mines is on fire.

The manager and his assistant ride their horses to the fire. The manager risks his life to bring up a wounded miner.

The manager tells Robert to watch out for women like Blanca, because they will steal a heart away with ease. Robert says that he is a company man and the lady hated him even before they were introduced to each other. Baxter tells him watch out or she may break his heart one day.

The manager calls Crown to say that the mine is shut down. Crown does not want to pay the men for the day since most of their day they were just lounging around. Baxter says isn't that a bit harsh and Crown replies that the mines are too often closed down to keep paying workers for an entire day's wages.

A childhood friend sees Blanca on the street and stops to talk to her. He says he just got back last night. He thanks her for the letters she wrote to him, saying they were a great help. The fellow just got out of jail. He tells Blanca: "I'm going to keep fighting like Maximiliano taught us."

Crown speaks to Baxter showing him a a little pamphlet from the workers. Apparently, the socialists have replaced the anarchists in the struggle against the employers. Crown adds that he likes that Baxter was so firm with the miners in Mexico and elsewhere. He wants Baxter to apply the same firmness to the workers in Huelva.

Kathleen looks out a window from the second floor of her uncle's house and asks Blanca if she would like to be kissed on the mouth? Blanca jumps up and goes to the window to see Robert walking with Ajay. While they both look, they see Crown looking up at them. He motions for the two young ladies to come down.

Crown presents Baxter with a newly purchased horse. Kathleen says to Baxter that she hopes he knows his horses. She looks over and sees Robert and Blanca talking together about horses as they pay attention to a different horse. Kathleen watches the two of them with a little smirk on her face.

Robert and Baxter play pool late at night. They have a late night visitors The fellow comes into the room. He looks like he might be an informer. The guest tells the men where a printing machine is that is set up to print up labor pamphlets for the workers.

The next morning Baxter and Robert pay a visit to the printing place. He takes a sledge hammer and starts destroying the press. The two men are arrested.

At dinner with Blanca's mother, Kathleen criticizes Blanca's interest in one of the labor managers. Blanca tells her mother that this is not true and for Kathleen to stop talking about it. Mother is a bit worried about this supposed relationship.

Kathleen says "we" must put an end to all this injustice. Blanca reminds Kathleen that she is a rich white girl. Kathleen says she would give her life to stop the injustices. Blanca is skeptical of her sincerity and commitment. Kathleen brings up the subject of the massacre at the square. This upsets the mother and Blanca has to take her to lay down.

Blanca's recently returned friend sees Blanca talking with Robert as school is let out for the day. This disturbs him and he turns around and leaves. Robert wants her to let him teach her how to ride. She is a bit cold toward him, so he says he's sorry to have bothered her. He starts to leave and suddenly she changes her tactics.

So they go out riding with Blanca sitting in front of him. He lets her takes the reins after awhile. They travel to a bridge over the local river. The water is red, probably from the mine pollution. But it does make a pretty sight with red among yellow rocks.

He tries to kiss Blanca, but she tells him they must leave. When they return to town a mining family is being forcefully evicted from their company apartment. Blanca just stares at the man in charge of the eviction. [He is the captain that caused the massacre.]

Flashback. Kathleen and Bianca are still hiding on the train. The soldiers with blood on their faces and uniforms are a bit dazed at the day's accomplishment. The captain does not seem bothered at all by it.

Back to the present. Kathleen recognizes the captain responsible for the massacre as the boss of the eviction. Robert asks by whose authority does the boss evict these people? The captain says he has an eviction order signed by the mayor. The man being evicted has been "stirring up trouble".

The evicted father pleads with Robert to help him, but there is nothing Robert can do. Robert gets on his horse and rides to the Bellavista British Club. He goes in and immediately asks Baxter who are those armed thugs? Baxter takes him deep into the club and he tells Robert that they are private security. But why hire them? Because the Civil Guard is not effective against the labor agitators.

Baxter tells Robert that from the way Robert is acting he would say that Robert has lost his taste for his job. Robert says he didn't know his job was to throw women and children into the streets. Mad, Robert leaves the British Club.

Kathleen asks her uncle how could he bring that monstrous massacre captain back to their mines? Uncle doesn't even think of the workers, but only how the poor captain was booted out of the army. He tries to explain his actions, but Kathleen will have none of it. When he puts his hand on her face, she slaps it away. Uncle now asks: "It's time you married, don't you think?" Maybe she should marry Baxter.

So Kathleen hooks up with Blanca's old friend and helps dynamite company property. She even lights some of the fuses. Baxter's office is completely demolished. Robert tries to get Baxter not to take retribution for the bombing. The town will soon get electricity and he wants Baxter to pay not attention to the bombing, but carry on a big celebration for everyone on the day of the lighting of the lights.

Dr. White brings flowers to Blanca's mother, known as Mercedes. He notices that she has a fever. She thinks the doctor is the returning Cuban. She asks him to kiss her. Blanca enters the room now and she is concerned over how bad her mother looks. Her poor mother passes away.

A funeral is held for Mercedes. Kathleen walks together with Blanca. They trade barbs again and Kathleen walks away from her.

Robert comes over to see Blanca. She's not sure if she should let him in. She looks around the front of the house and then lets Robert come in. A little later he says he should go, but now Blanca tells him no. They start hugging and kissing each other. They land in bed together. After the sex is over, Blanca actually has a smile on her face.

The doctor is leaving Riotinto. He urges Blanca to stop writing fantasy stories and write what's in her heart. He also suggests that Blanca tell the true story of life at the Riotinto Mines.

The night of the electric lighting has arrived. Many people are there for the big celebration. Baxter turns on the lights to the delight of the guests.

The captain and his men are going out on a raiding party.

The guests start dancing. Kathleen is still mad at Blanca and she starts flirting with Robert. But after the dance Robert goes back to Blanca.

As the guests watch a flamenco dance, the captain and his men round up the trouble-makers. When it's all over, the captain is there nodding to Baxter. Baxter announces to the crowd that their labor troubles are all over.

Baxter, the captain and Robert all head over to the jail. They are torturing one of the prisoners. Baxter makes Robert take over and Robert repeatedly smashes the man's face using brass knuckles.

Kathleen sees Robert's blood-stained clothes and asks him what has happened? She also asks: "Whose blood is that?" He pushes her against a post and she asks: "How can you live with yourself?"

Kathleen is mad but excited. She pushes Robert's right hand over her curves and he goes for it. They have sex standing next to the post. Blanca hears noises and goes to check. She catches Kathleen and Robert having sex.

After the couple finishes, Robert tells Kathleen that the dance was a cover-up for what was really going to happen. Foreign insurgents were captured tonight. Kathleen picks up her shawl and runs away from Robert.

Blanca cries at home. Kathleen rides a white horse through the night. Robert goes to drink at a bar. Blanca rides with two male riders.

Blanca's returned friend and a second man walk into the bar and the action begins. The captain grabs a bar girl and threatens to slit her throat with his knife. The fighting stops. Kathleen comes over to Robert to whisper in his ear. The workers surround the captain and the girl is pulled away from him. Robert grabs the bad man and takes him to the floor.

Robert gets the better of the older captain and slits his throat. The captain's very bloody carcass hangs head down in the air held there by a rope around his feet.

The informer comes into see the two bosses. He obviously has been beaten very badly. Baxter asks where's Robert? The policeman with the informer says that Robert has betrayed Mr. Baxter. "Come and see for yourself."

Crown grabs a gun from his desk. The mayor is on the streets going to see what happened. The mayor sees the dead captain hanging in the air. He shouts to the crowd that this will not go unpunished. Now Crown and Baxter arrive to see the dead body. The body is taken down.

The workers and their families are very glad to hear the news that the evil bastard captain has been killed. Baxter tells Robert to go get those men out of jail. Robert replies: "No, Arthur. Not this time. This is where it ends."

Baxter tells his armed men to get the insurgents from the jail. Blanca arrives at the square and she sees Kathleen up front. Kathleen also sees Blanca. They stare at each other.

Flashback. The captain had his men seal up the train windows. Later he takes a walk through the train cars and sees the suffocated passengers. So the bastard captain massacred even more people than just at the town square.

Kathleen and Blanca see the soldiers tossing the dead bodies off a pier and into the water. They see the captain then cut the throat of the Cuban. He then kicks his body off the pier. Blanca cries at the sight.

Back to the present. Crown tells Baxter to say something or he will. Baxter orders everyone to go home. No one moves so he puts a rifle to the head of the tortured prisoner and threatens to shoot. Robert jumps up with his pistol pointed straight at Baxter. Crown pulls out his pistol to shoot Robert, but Kathleen jumps forward and stabs her uncle with a knife. Then someone shoots uncle in the head.

The firing really starts now as well as the panic among the people, who start running away. Many men on both sides of the dispute are killed or wounded. One of the policemen shoots Robert and the officer is then killed by Blanca's male friend with a rifle. The mayor tells the police to arrest those men, but the chief of police absolutely refuses.

Baxter goes over and holds up Robert's head as he lays bleeding. Blanca now runs up to Robert. Kathleen rides out with Blanca's male friend and other assassins. She looks back and sees Robert with Baxter and Blanca. Robert dies and Blanca cries. Baxter begins to cry over the dead body.

School teacher Blanca tells her students that today is a very important one for their town. There will be no class or work in the mine. Do the students want to know why? They say they do.

Blanca goes to stand by Baxter at the open pit mine. The workers are filling up the last of the toxic terelas with dirt and sand. Baxter tells Blanca that she won. She turns to look at the workers and their families and tells Baxter: "No, Baxter. They won."

The crowd gives out with a big hurrah and starts clapping for the closure of the last of the terelas.

Portinao, southern Portugal, eleven years later. Blanca sits out on a table while she writes. She stops writing when her old friend from childhood, Carlos the labor organizer, comes out to see her. He hands her a bag saying that this is from Kathleen.

Blanca's young girl runs up and is introduced to Carlos. The girl has freckles like Kathleen. The girl grabs his hand and takes Carlos down to the beach to play.

Flashback. Kathleen gives Blanca her baby girl and asks her to take care of her baby, because where she's going she can't. Blanca takes the baby. Kathleen tells Blanca: "Love her as I should have loved you."

Back to the present. Blanca looks inside a wrapped gift. She uncovers it and finds a typewriter. Now she can write her stories faster. She sees and old photo of Kathleen and herself as children running along the beach in the water.

"In 1954, after 81 years of ownership by a British company, the mines of Rio Tinto were returned to the Spanish government. In memory of those who died in Riotinto Square, Saturday, February 4th, 1888 and of all martyrs for liberty and justice anywhere and anytime."

 

Terrific story about a labor dispute between mine workers and their British employers in Huelva, Andalusia, Spain. The employers would not bend to any attempts to improve the conditions for the workers. Instead, the employers resorted to violence and not negotiations. Many workers and other were killed in the violence. The uncompromising employers and their use of force is finally answered by force from the workers. More people die.

The story follows the lives of two little girls, one British and one Spanish, who were extremely close friends. The labor troubles lead to the separation of the two young women. They are further separated as the two women with one man develop a triangular relationship.

I liked all the main actors and actresses in the film. Pretty Sienna Guillory was a model at one time.

Patrick Louis Cooney,  Ph. D. 

 

 

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