La caza (The Hunt) (1966)
Director: Carlos Saura.
Starring: Ismael Merlo (José ), Alfredo Mayo (Paco ), José María Prada (Luis ), Emilio Gutiérrez Caba (Enrique), Fernando Sánchez Polack (Juan ), Violeta García (Carmen ), María Sánchez Aroca (La Madre de Juan).
on a 4-man hunt, bad memories return concerning the Spanish Civil War and lead to big trouble
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Four fellows drive up in a jeep. Theu all seem to agree that it's a great weather day for rabbit hunting. The driver of the car, Paco, says he has invited Enrique, his brother-in-law Enrique because he's crazy about hunting and he's the one who got the jeep. The other fellow, Jose, says that's fine. Then he says it's like old times that the three of them are together again. Only poor Arturo is missing. They both agree it was terrible the way Arturo died. The last time the gang was together was eight years ago. The guys go into a dinner type of place. They sit and have some drinks. The driver Paco asks Luis about his wife, Lucia, but apparently Luis split from his wife. Jose says he's the only one that can tolerate Luis. He takes some medicine and says that he's always bothered by stomach problems. The guys finish their drinks and Jose says it's time to go.
Luis says he wants to drink one more brandy and Jose says he can stay here as long as he likes and the rest of them will go hunting. Luis talks to Paco saying that Jose is really grouchy. Jose separated from his wife and now has a new love, the girl Maribel that they all know. Paco finds it hard to believe that Jose and Maribel are together.
The guys drive on. They come to an isolated house. Jose goes in to call out for Juan, but only his old mother is there in bed. He tells the mother to tell her son that they will be down by the caves. But mother can only think about the milk for her little pet ferrets. She asks about Carmen who is late in bringing milk for the ferrets. Carmen is out feeding the pig. Jose asks Carmen where is Juan and she says he's with the sheep, but he will be back soon. Jose gets on the back of a donkey and rides around on it.
The guys drive on farther into a desert like topography. They stop and the black dog with them, named Cuca, jumps out and starts barking and racing around. The brother-in-law asks Luis about the caves. Luis says that Loyalists tried to hide in the caves during the Spanish Civil War, but they had to come out sometime and that's when they shot them. Paco remembers fighting the Loyalists here. Jose remarks that it was a different kind of hunting during those times.
They guys set up a kind of camp under a covering providing shade for the group. Luis stays in the car and Jose asks him if he is going to stay in the car the whole day? Luis sits under the covering with the guys and says it's not much fun to hunt for rabbits because rabbits are such defenseless creatures. Paco says that it's all just survival of the fittest. Enrique says that's a cruel way to look at it. Jose says it would be better if their opponent was stronger. The men assemble their various weapons to be used against the rabbits.
Luis assembles his weapon, loads it with bullets and starts firing at the top of a tall weed. Paco says it would have been nice if Luis would have given them some warning he was about to start firing. The young brother-in-law wants to see Luis's weapon. Someone says Luis used that rifle in the war. Enrique borrows the rifle and pretends he is looking for targets to shoot. He sees someone walking towards them coming down a hill. They figure it must be Juan. Enrique shows Luis the German Lugar he has that he got from his father. Luis says that many of the Rebels were killed by faulty Lugars.
Juan tells the fellows that it was easy to find them because of the shooting. He then warns Jose about watching out for rabbit traps. Jose tells Juan to watch their stuff. Carmen comes down the hill with some supplies and a skillet.
The guys talk about Juan and his lifestyle. Some would like to live like him, others no. Enrique gets a strange feeling that he has been at this place before. Their dog Cuca finds a dead rabbit. Jose says it's an infected rabbit.
Back at camp Juan rolls a cigarette, while his niece Carmen tells him that everything is ready.
Jose says the disease is Myxomatosis and was spread by a French doctor. He did it to slow down the birth rate of the rabbits which were multiplying too quickly. The French doctor infected a rabbit and then turned it loose. The disease traveled over the Pyrenees Mountains and now Spain has it.
The guys say they are going to split up. But they don't really split up. They just leave a wider gap between each other. Paco tells Luis not to kill them by mistake!
The guys start out walking four across. Jose thinks about Maribel and says everything would be alright if he could just convince Paco. He comes across a rabbit trap and throws a rock in the center of it to snap it closed. Paco is thinking that he is sure Juan eats inflected rabbits and that's why the man is lame in one leg. Cuca scares out a rabbit from it's hiding place, but no one is quick enough to get a shot at it. Enrique drinks from Luis's canteen, but soon discovers it's sure not water that's in there. He asks what is it, but Luis just tells him to go back to his place in line.
The men come to a place where there are lots of rabbits. Luis kills one and another is killed by a shotgun blast. Cuca brings back one of the rabbits. Jose shoots a rabbit and calls for Cuca to pick it up for him. Cuca sees a live rabbit and chases it until he catches and kills it. Rabbit after rabbit goes down to the guns. Cuca is one busy dog retrieving the dead rabbits. The four men with their rabbits take a group portrait using a timer.
Back at camp the guys relax, while Juan and Carmen prepare the rabbits for rabbit stew. Enrique shows Jose a photo he took of Jose and asks him if he likes it. Jose takes it and rips it up. He says he doesn't want any pictures and he wants to be left alone. Juan comes over to talk to Don Jose. He says his mother is helpless and he has hardly any place for her to sleep. In winter, it's just going to be awful. Juan says his mother would be better off in a hospital. Jose says he will see what he can do for Juan. Then Juan asks Jose for a loan. Jose says it's impossible. Things have not gone as well as before in his business. He says he is sorry. Juan is disappointed and says he never asks Jose for anything. Jose only repeats that he will check on the hospital and will see to the medicines for his mother.
Carmen looks over the shoulder of Paco as he looks at a men's magazine with pictures of nude women. Enrique is about to take her picture. Carmen sees him and runs away. Jose says they are going to need more bread tonight, so Luis takes along Enrique and drives to a store. Before Enrique leaves, he gives Carmen the photo he took of her a little while ago.
Paco asks Jose to see a photo of his girl Maribel. Jose shows him a photo and Paco tells him he is lucky to have such a nice looking woman. Jose takes some medicine and Paco asks him what he's taking. Jose says that he still gets pains from his old wound. The problem is that the pills no longer really relieve him of the pain.
Driving with Enrique, Luis tells him that the three of them plus Arturo started up a business together. Then he starts talking about Paco.
Jose takes Paco up to one of the caves. He uses a key to unlock a lock on the door over the cave entrance. Jose takes Paco inside and with a lit match shows him a skeleton of some person. Paco doesn't like what he sees and accuses Jose of collecting corpses. He leaves the cave.
The two guys reach a town. Luis says that he wouldn't mind spending the rest of his life in this little town.
Jose asks Paco for a loan. He wants half a million pesetas. Paco says he cannot lend Jose any money, but he can find a job for him. He goes on to say that he thinks Jose is trying to use their friendship as a way of squeezing money from him. Paco says: "I owe you nothing! You helped me because it suited you." Jose fires back: "I warn you! Don't insult me Paco! I won't stand for it!" Paco apologizes.
The guys out looking for bread are having a hard time finding any one to serve them. They come across some people who are butchering a sheep. Enrique doesn't like seeing things like this. He says that Paco is not his usual self. There is something wrong. So, he asks Luis to tell him about Paco. Luis says that Paco is very hard and is always out for himself. Jose, on the other hand, is too easy going. He asks Enrique why did Paco marry his sister? "Because she has money", says Luis. On the other hand, Luis says that with Paco's help Enrique will be able to succeed in life.
The guys return from their shopping trip. They brought a few loaves of bread and Luis picked up half a manikin used in sewing dresses that he will use for target practice. Luis asks Jose what did Paco say to him? After all, the two of them are still partners. Jose just tells him to leave him alone. Enrique wants to know what Jose asked of Paco. Paco won't tell him. Enrique then asks about Arturo. Paco says he embezzled funds and ended up killing himself.
Carmen dances with the music. Enrique seems to really like her and he teaches her how to do some dance steps. Then they dance together. Juan tells her to go get the stones for the fire. Enrique tells her they will dance together later.
The rabbit stew is served. The talk turns to the skeleton in the cave. It seems that Luis already knows about the skeleton. Enrique wonders if it Arturo's skeleton. Paco says it was probably someone who died during the civil war. They get started talking about rabbits and rats as being such prolific breeds. This upsets Enrique who says now he feels like he's eating rat rather than rabbit. Jose says during the war people ate rats.
Luis gets up and goes over to Enrique to whisper to him not to tell Paco about what they talked about. Juan and Carmen leave. The guys left behind fall asleep and some have dreams that sound a bit disturbing with talk about blood stains being found on clothing.
Luis sets up his sewing manikin for target practice. Jose gets up and smokes. He complains about how hot it is and that his wound is still causing him pain.
Enrique uses high-powered binoculars that enable him to see Carmen taking a bath outside by the house. He seems obsessed with the young girl.
Luis pushes a pin through a beetle and sticks it onto the manikin. He then starts firing at the beetle. Paco and Jose jump up trying to see who's firing. Jose loses his temper, grabs Luis and slaps him down. The two other men scold Jose for this. Enrique helps Luis up. Jose claims that they are lucky that Luis did not shoot them. Paco says he's exaggerating. Enrique burns the men's magazine. Luis now burns the manikin The fires starts spreading and the guys can't put it out. After quite a bit of effort, they finally put the fire out.
Juan releases a ferret into a rabbit hole. The ferret goes in after the rabbits. The hunters wait with their weapons at the ready for the appearance of the rabbits. The ferret grabs one of the rabbits and tries to pull it out. The other rabbit comes out of the hole and is shot. The rabbit still in the hole gets away from the ferret and runs out the hole. The ferret chases after the rabbit. For some reason, Paco not only shoots and kills the rabbit, but shoots and kills the ferret too.
Juan goes and picks up his ferret. Paco says he was shooting at the rabbit but hit the ferret instead. Juan just stares at the man. Juan complains to Don Jose that Paco did it on purpose. Jose says it's easy to make a mistake, but at least he says he's sorry it happened. Jose goes over to Paco and says: "That was a dirty trick, Paco." Paco plays innocent.
Jose goes over to Luis and apologies for slapping him. Luis just tries to ignore him and when Jose keeps apologizing, he leaves. Jose sits behind a large plant. Luis tells Paco that in business he is splitting off from Jose. He then asks Paco for a job. Paco tells him to come down to the factory and he'll have a job. But he says Luis has to work for it, because he (Paco) is not like Jose. Luis gets in the jeep and starts driving. Jose loads his shotgun. He takes aim at Paco, but does not fire.
Enrique hunts rabbits with his Lugar, while Luis uses the jeep to try to scare the rabbits forward. A couple rabbits run out, but Enrique can't hit any. Paco shoots at a rabbit and hits it. He turns around to see if the others saw his shot and Jose shoots him in the face with his shotgun. Luis gets so mad that he decides to run down Jose with the jeep. Jose yells at him that he will shoot if Luis doesn't stop coming at him. Luis ignores the warning, so Jose fires. The shot breaks the jeep's window and hits Luis in the face and head. Luis is still able to get to his rifle and keeps shooting at Jose until the man falls over. Luis drops and holds his head while in a fetal position. Enrique runs between the three men to check to see if anyone is left alive.
Spoiler Warning: An interesting film and most of the men in the film were veterans of the Spanish Civil War, but I had the idea that the experiences in the civil war led to post traumatic disorder, which in turn led to an outbreak of violence between the friends and business associates. It's possible that such a disorder influenced the way the men interacted with each other, but the other, more personal reasons, seem to be the explanation for the violence rather than post traumatic disorder. So for history, it's not the best of films to select, especially since there are so many better films on the Spanish Civil War. The civil war was obviously a big influence on the lives of the veterans and could be part of the explanation for what happened, but then there's the terrible heat, the exhaustion caused by the heat and all the walking, the failure of friends to give loans to other friends, bad past behavior, etc.
As for the film itself, it was good, but at times the film dragged. I knew something about what was going to happen at the end and I kept wondering when something violent was going to happen. It never actually did until the end itself. So maybe it would have been better to have been able to just watch the film without knowing anything about the ending.
Oh, all the killing of the rabbits and the ferret grabbing the rabbit is pretty disturbing. Be prepared if you are an animal lover.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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