The sea doesn’t look better on the big screen. However, even though reality beats fiction, I’ve always been fascinated by those scenes where the main character is walking along a beach with no one in sight for miles and miles; usually lost in thought and leaving deep footprints in the sand behind him. The most amazing cinematic shores that I can remember are in a film, the name of which I can’t recall.
When I was little, I saw a strange film in an old church cinema in Arrecife. Mr. Ramón, the priest who organized the Sunday event, certainly had a bizarre taste in films. The room used to be full of kids aged around six to twelve years old. In those worn-out seats, you either got to see a gangster movie or a confusing film that, at such a tender age, could terrify you. Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, for example, could do just that.
However, the strange disturbing film that I am referring to wasn’t directed by the Swedish filmmaker, even though it began and ended in the same fashion; with a close-up of a beach in black and white with waves gently rolling up the shore and disappearing again into the sea; a dramatic effect emphasized with a voice-over. A melancholy narrator with a deep voice began a first person narrative. I don’t know if I fully understood the meaning of that voice-over back then, but I started to repeat to myself what I could remember and I learnt it by heart. On many a night before falling asleep I recited it, almost in a state of fear. The narrator said something like: Last night I had a terrible dream. On the shores of Cadiz there was a dead man and that man was me.
That epilogue from the end of the film is all that I can still remember. It was like a circular ripple in a pond, the beginning and the end of an unknown feature film. So often have I tried to think of the title of that film and tried asking many friends of mine who are film buffs, but nobody seems to have any knowledge of that cinematic shore that has been so vividly impressed upon my mind.
Other films are just as legendary, but for different reasons. For example, From Here to Eternity starring Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster as two passionate lovers on the beach.. Or Hitchcock’s Rebecca with climatic scenes showing waves in black and white. And François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, which has Antoine Doinel running along the beach; a scene that often suggests a longing for freedom.
But it is out at sea where things really get intense; where intense scenes from pirate stories take place. Wild skirmishes and looting at the hands of famous pirates, buccaneers and other fortune seekers played out in colourful settings. I’ve always liked the intense shades of blue in pirate films that never quite look like the real sea, but nonetheless have seemed to capture the true smells of the ocean air.
Out at high sea, destiny can play some nasty tricks on us. But that is another genre. In novels about shipwrecks some pages are pure fiction, and still others are the cruel reality, even of today.
Dolores Campos-Herrero is the author ofFieras y ángeles (Beasts and Angels) and Veranos mortales (Fatal Summers) among other works.