Directed by Jose Luis Cuerda
For those who have to brush up on their history, BUTTERFLY can be a confusing film. Ms. Hen knows some things about the Spanish Civil War, but not everything, so she had to do research about what was happening in the time period in which the film took place, a time in between the Republic and the fascists, when betrayal and lies were everywhere.
The film is a coming of age story about Moncho, a boy kept out of school because of asthma. When he goes to school he is so nervous on the first day because he thinks he will be beaten, he pees his pants in front of the class. He runs away, but his kind teacher goes to his house and encourages him to come back to school.
Ms. Hen liked the teacher Don Gregorio because he reminded her of a professor she had in chicken school who encouraged her to become a writer. Moncho and the teacher become friends; he shows Moncho how to catch butterflies with a net and explains that butterflies have a tongue that curls out to eat the nectar from the flower.
Ms. Hen’s favorite scene was Moncho and his brother Ramon go to a different town to play with a band and they stay in the house belonging to a man and his Chinese wife. The woman tends to the hens in the barn. She cannot talk, but she can understand, her husband explains. Ramon has his eyes on the wife, and he plays the saxophone while looking at her at the concert.
In the class, Don Gregorio posed a riddle to the students. The question is, if a rooster lays an egg on the border of France and Spain, what nationality would the egg be? One silly boy said, it would be Spanish because they have big balls. But Moncho knew the correct answer (as did Ms. Hen): roosters don’t lay eggs.
Throughout the film, there is a sense of underlying danger. Men on horses watch the Republicans’ party, a man kills a dog of his lover and people are on edge. The viewer knows something evil will happen, and at the end, it does. The film poses a question – what would you do in extreme circumstances? Would you do the right thing, or would you do what you had to do to survive?
Ms. Hen doesn’t know what she would do if she were faced with a conundrum like that. It’s easy to say we would do the right thing, but faced with death or imprisonment of our whole family, the question hangs in the air. Fortunately for Ms. Hen, the major obstacle in her life today in the mountain of snow outside. There are other things, but none is the matter of putting her life at risk. She’s an accessory, and is meant to carry things. She carries the weight of wisdom in her wings.