El Sur (1983) Script


Screenplay by...

Based on a Story by...





What is it, ma'am?

My husband's gone. Sinbad won't stop barking.


Is this the hospital?

Is Dr. Arenas there?

This is his wife.

Ma'am, Estrella's bicycle is gone!


I just wanted to know if he dropped by during the night.

Do you know where he might be?

Yes, if he shows up, please tell him to call home right away.

Yes, it's very urgent.


His wife.

Thank you.

That day at sunrise... when I found his pendulum under my pillow...

I felt that this time... everything had changed... that he'd never be coming home.


A girl.

Are you sure?

I'm sure.

What will her name be?


They told me my father predicted that I would be a girl.

That's the first memory I have of him... a very vivid image... that in reality I made up myself.

Want some?


I grew up as we moved from place to place.

He was looking for a steady position.

He found it in the north... in a walled city on the banks of a river.

We lived outside of town in a rented house...

"the Seagull."

It was in a no-man's-land halfway between the countryside and the city on a road my father called

"the border."

Let's continue the same treatment. When can I go home?

I'm fed up here. I have to get home.

Very soon.

But you must do what Sister Lucía tells you.

And relax.

Will you take me for a ride? Isn't it a bit late?


Come on. One little ride.

All right. Hop on.


Faster! All right!


Don't make so much noise!

Your dad's upstairs.

I didn't know.

If you bother him, he can't do his experiments.

What did I tell you?

I dropped it.

Mommy... why doesn't Daddy want anyone coming up into the attic?

Because all the power he keeps in there would escape.

So that's why he locks the door?

Without that power he couldn't do any of the things he does.

Where does he get it from?


It's just something he has.

Has he always had it?

Yes, ever since he was born.

Could I have it too?

I don't know.

Seeing you're his daughter...

I imagine you might.

Would you like that?

Very much!

And now... off to sleep.

Good night, sweetie. Good night, Mommy.

The first thing you must learn is how to hold the pendulum.

Take it.

Don't squeeze too hard.

That's the way.

That's it.

Now... close your eyes... and let your mind go blank.

No, don't squeeze the chain so hard.

Let it hang loose.

That's it.

Now... all by yourself.

Let your mind go blank.


Nice and slow.

Nice and slow.

That's it.

Just like that.

Very good.

Empty your mind completely.

That's it.

Very good.

Daddy, it's swinging!


Stop right there.

It's swinging!

He found it. Now for the depth.

Count them.

Did you find it? The water's right here.

...two... three...

How far down do we dig? Each coin is one meter.

The total equals the depth you have to dig.

...seven, eight.

How many coins? Eight.

You have to dig down eight meters.

Now we know what to do. That's not very deep.

My dad could do things that others considered practically miracles.

But to my eyes, coming from him... nothing could have seemed more natural.

My mother was one of the teachers who suffered reprisals after the Civil War.

She taught me to read and write.

Gentle going up... and harder going down.

A bit more.

Wet the pen.

Another blot!

It doesn't matter. Go on.

We'd spend almost the entire day together, yet I have only a few clear memories of her from that time.

I remember her sitting next to a window in the afternoon sewing my dresses... in the greenhouse looking after her flowers... on the patio varnishing old furniture she got from God knows where.

And at night reading the novels she enjoyed so much.

How is it?

Really good.

My father's origins were always a real mystery to me.

I knew nothing of his past... but that never bothered me.

What's that?


It smells so good!

We'll take some to Mommy for the soup.

With him at my side... all my cares vanished.

The mystery of his past was revealed to me bit by bit through my mother's words.

In the south... it almost never snows.

What a strange place!

Mommy, how come we've never gone there?

Your dad left when he was young and has never wanted to go back.

Why did he leave?

He never got along with your grandfather.

I heard they fought like cats and dogs... that your dad was a rebel and your grandpa was an ornery coot.

So you can imagine what happened.

From the very beginning... these stories lent themselves to fantasies... and I filled them with images I collected from all over the place.

Not knowing the real distances involved...

I situated it all on the other side of the globe, always with palm trees in the background, somewhere in the south.

There, something I never understood clearly had happened to my father... something that made him leave and never return.

One May afternoon... the day before my First Communion, two women arrived from the south.

The seagull! There it is!

You see it? Where?

On top of that house. It's like it's really flying!

Milagros, I don't see a thing.

Pepe, stop! This must be it.

Are you sure, Milagros?

We don't want to be wrong.

I said stop the car, ye of little faith!

I think they're here.

Run and open the gate.

What a racket you're making!

I'm coming.

Mommy, they're here!

I hope you behave.

Where's Daddy?

Come here a second. What for?

To comb your hair. I'm fine!

Please. Come on.

Does Agustín Arenas live here?

Yes, we've been expecting you.

Pepe, you can unload the luggage.

I don't like the part on that side.

That's how you always wear it.

It looks terrible!

It's better like this. Stop fidgeting!

Don't forget to give your grandmother a kiss.


Because I know you.

My little Agustín!

It's been so long... and so much sadness all around.

You've changed so much.

Are you happy? Yes.

You're not trying to fool me?

Where's my mother? In the car.

She's not too well. She had an attack four days ago.

A terrible thing. We almost had to stay home.

Go on. Go welcome her.

Is that little Estrella?

You're Estrella, right?

Yes. And you're Milagros? Yes!

Hello, son.

How are you?

A bit weak, but all right. And Estrella?

She's grown a lot. You won't recognize her.

This beard makes you look very old.

Shave it off.

And your wife?

She's fine. Let's go inside.

I can't believe how far away this place is.

I thought we'd never get here.

Good afternoon, ma'am.

What's your name? Casilda.

Would you kindly get my cane from the car?

"The Seagull."

Did you give it that name?

No, it was called that before we arrived.

You remember me?

That's your grandmother.

The last time I saw you, you were just a baby.


How are you feeling? So-so, my dear.

But I wanted to see my granddaughter on her First Communion, and here I am!

You must be tired, and it's getting chilly.

Let's go inside.

The lady's cane. Help Pepe with the luggage.

You know who I'm thinking of now?

Who? Your father.

If only he were here.

Milagros had looked after my father ever since he was a little boy.

She had a way about her that made her seem extraordinary to me, different from anyone I'd met before.

That night we shared a room.

When does it warm up here?

It almost never gets warm here.

It doesn't? What a strange world!

Some people roast from the heat, while others freeze from the cold.

But God's old enough to know what he's doing.

Is it very hot where you live? Very.

How do you stand it? With patience and lots of shade.

Are there really lots of Moors there?

There are still a few, but they're well-disguised.

What's so funny?

The way you talk. My dad doesn't talk like that.

Because he's a gentleman, besides being a renegade who turned his back on his hometown.

But pay no attention to me, or I'll start prattling and never stop.

But it's a crying shame that he never returned to the house where he was born.

And it's been so many years since he left.

I know.

How would you know, child?

He never went back because he quarreled with my grandpa.

Your father told you that?

No, my mother did.

Is Grandpa really a bad man?

Nonsense! People like to exaggerate.

And you know what?

Even wild beasts grow tame with age.

Your grandfather has changed.

All the things that have happened, and all the people who've died... all over some silly ideas!

It's true, your grandfather's ideas were the worst.

And since your dad always thought just the opposite, he couldn't take it.

Your grandfather was a cantankerous man, and your dad wasn't one to hold his tongue.

Just the opposite.

So they were at each other's throats all the time.

They had no respect for each other, and one day your dad just left.

Or he was kicked out. That's never been clear.

And that's how it's remained ever since.

They both wandered into a tunnel with no way out, and they're still trapped in there today.

But Grandpa was with the bad guys, right?

Bad guys... good guys.


Just so you understand.

When the Republic... Anyway, before the war, your grandpa was with the bad guys, and your father was with the good guys.

But when Franco won, your grandpa became a saint and your father a devil.

See how things are in this world?

Just words and more words.

But why did they put Daddy in jail?

Because that's what the winners in a war always do.

But you're just a little girl.

Who told you all this? My mother.

Good Lord!

Couldn't she have found more pleasant topics? Or waited a bit?

You have plenty of time to learn about all that.

Look, Estrella... you're just a little girl.

Forget about all that and think about your First Communion tomorrow, one of the most wonderful days of your life, just like you were getting married.

That's what the priest says, but I don't understand.

I don't either, but no matter!

You get to dress in white just like a bride.

I'm not getting married when I grow up.

And why not?

Brides always have that stupid look on their faces.

Just look at wedding pictures in shop windows.

That's enough chitchat now!

Go to sleep.

Don't turn it off yet. What do you want?

You think my father will come to church tomorrow?

Why, of course!

He never goes to church.

I know that, but don't you worry.

I'll drag him there myself if I have to!

Go to sleep now.

Good night, Estrella.

Good night, Milagros.

Mom, these shoes are too tight.

I told you that in the store.

That's just at first. They'll stretch.

Julia, use a little talcum powder.

And now... the veil.

Dear Jesus! What was that?

Agustín is out shooting.

What an idea!

My son's only happy if he's making a scene.

There's no excuse for going out shooting on a day like today.

He's always doing what you least expect.

I'm getting used to it.

Will he come back soon? Mom, will he?

I don't know.

Just like a bride!

Milagros! The things you say!

Am I right or not?

Girls, now that you have received Our Lord, go and greet your parents.

He came. Where is he?

In the back.

If you get bored, go outside, but don't leave, okay?

All right.

He did it for me.

He did it for me.

They left when the party was over, late in the afternoon.

From that day on, whenever I thought of the south, the image of those two women always came to mind.

I don't remember clearly now... but I think it was around that time that I discovered that in my father's imagination there was another woman.

Who could Irene Ríos be?

Did she really exist?

Or was she an imaginary figure?

Why had Dad written her name over and over?

Mom, do you know Irene Ríos?

No. Who's that?

No one.

A new girl in my class.

I lied for the first time when I spoke of Irene Ríos.

The fact my mother didn't know her made me suspect that behind that woman's name... my father was hiding some unknown secret.

So almost without realizing it...

I became his secret accomplice.

A few months later, when I least expected it, something extraordinary happened.

I discovered that Irene Ríos really did exist.

It was a winter afternoon, just after school.


May I have a program?

It's not allowed, you know.

Yes, I know.


Who is Irene Ríos? Who?

Irene Ríos. She's in the movie.

You're right.

It's true.

Is she the blonde or the brunette?

Carmen Alonso is the brunette, so Irene Ríos must be the blonde.

When will the movie be over?

In half an hour.

Well, good-bye.


Yes, it's me!


I thought you were...

Go on. I dare you to say it.

You're wrong. It's not what you think.

You thought I was dead, right?

That's not true. I swear.

Don't swear. God can hear you.

You're such a fool.

You're right.

I am a fool. That's why I love you.

Give me a light.

Well, why are you here?

Hurry. I go on in a minute.

I came to say good-bye.

You're leaving?

No, I'm not leaving.

You are.

What are you talking about?

You're crazy.

It's true.

I'm crazy.

I stood outside the door earlier, listening.

I heard you singing our song.

We could have been so happy.


Yes, happy!

I never knew real happiness...

I loved her!

"Dear Laura...

I'm sure this letter will surprise you after such a long silence.

But I just saw a lover of yours on the big screen fire a few shots and send you off to the next world.


I realize that what happens in movies isn't real... but I'm still hopelessly superstitious... and I wanted to make sure you're still walking this earth... if only lurking behind that stage name of yours.

By the way... your killer wasn't bad... but the star and her leading man were terrible.

Since I don't know where you are, I'm mailing this letter to Seville."

I'll never forget my father's face when, sitting in the Café Oriental, he looked up from his writing and saw me outside the window.

Now I understand that he reacted as if caught red-handed, but I didn't realize that at the time.

I only knew that it seemed he'd been writing a letter.

- Julia, listen to me! You'll wake Estrella!

Please listen!

I don't want to hear a word!

If you want to go talk to her, go!

Do whatever you want!

Just don't tell me about it!

It's not that.

You're wrong, Julia.

A certain idea I'd had about my father up till then began to change.

It was like opening my eyes and suddenly discovering that I knew almost nothing about him.

"Dear Agustín... at one point eight years ago I decided never to expect anything from you.

I was very lonely at the time... much lonelier than you could have guessed.

It wasn't easy, but I gradually managed it.

I never heard from you all that time.

That was to be expected.

Things between us had become very difficult.

Besides, there were others around you who were more important to you.

I understood that.

I tried to accept it, and that helped.

What I really don't understand is the letter I just received from you.

Why, after all this time?

Why write to me now?

To see if I'm still alive?

Yes, I am... but what of it?

I can't believe it's because of the magic of cinema you allude to... a magic you may not realize I had to give up over a year ago.

I've searched high and low... but I've never found that place. You remember?

The place from which you never want to return?

I wonder if it really exists.

So here I am, back home again.

The past doesn't move me like it once did, and more importantly, I don't want to keep thinking about it.

I try to look ahead... and I'm afraid I've grown old at last.

I was in four movies, but I never got my big break.

In three of them I met an unpleasant end: in a hail of bullets, as you saw, or from some silk stockings, and even a straight razor.

Incidentally, which would you have used?

Forgive me. I was justjoking.

I didn't mean me but the femme fatale who prompted you to write.

Poor Irene Ríos, may she rest in peace.

She can't answer you.

And by answering for her, I fear I've fallen into a trap without knowing it.

Here I am remembering the past and even joking about it in questionable taste.

But it's your fault. I mean, the things you wrote!

In a nutshell, what is you want from me?

No, it's best you don't answer that.

It's not worth it.

Please forget I asked.

I'd honestly prefer you didn't write.

It's so terribly difficult to reply.

Time is the most implacable avenger I've ever known.

And though I'm older now... sometimes, especially at night...

I'm afraid."


That was the first time Dad left in the middle of the night without a word to anyone.

Wake up! The train's leaving!

He came back the next morning.

We didn't hear him come in.

He must have snuck in the back door so he wouldn't wake us up.

Mom? What?

What's wrong with Dad?

Why do you ask that?

He's been acting strange. Haven't you noticed?

Yes, a little.

Ever since he ran away.

He didn't run away.

Honestly, the things you say!

But it's true. He ran away.

Please don't say that, you hear?

Besides... what would you know?

I do know.

And so do you.

From that day on... my father never used his pendulum again.

One afternoon... tired of the atmosphere at home...

I decided to protest in my own way.

I hid under a bed, prepared to never come out again.

When they noticed my absence, my mother and Casilda began looking everywhere.

From my hiding place, I defied them with my silence.

From their footsteps I could tell they were growing more and more worried.

Little by little the night came on.

I knew my father was home.

I waited the whole time for him to call me... but he never did.

He answered my silence with his own.

Thus I suddenly understood that he was playing my game... accepting my challenge... to show me that his pain was much greater than my own.


Why are you crying? 'Cause I like to!

I began to wish with all my heart that I could grow and grow and suddenly be all grown up and flee far away.

I grew up more or less like everyone else, growing accustomed to being alone and to not thinking too much about happiness.

"Dearest Estrella, thank you for the lovely letter.

I've read it many times.

Is it all true?

I hope you'll come visit someday. I might not even recognize you!

The picture shows your grandmother and me in Rome, when we went to see the pope. Pretty, isn't it?

Hugs for everyone, and a big kiss for you."

Television will soon be here I'll sing for you and you'll see me Dress me up, Mother I'm going to be on TV Hi. What's for lunch?

Soup and fried fish.

You always make the same thing!

It's your mother's condition.

Has she gotten up? No.

Did you see what someone wrote on the wall?


What did they write?



Don't laugh. It's not funny.

I know who it was.

So do I.

How are you doing? Oh, the same.

I tried to get up, but I got dizzy.

Have you eaten?

Not yet.

Don't wait for Dad. He'll be late.

What? Telephone.

Could you pick this up from the pharmacy?

Don't forget. I could hardly sleep last night.

Coming! Casilda will give you the money.

Who is it? Who else? Same as always.

"El Carioco."

Tell him I'm not here. You tell him.

Go away.

What do you want?

Nothing. Just to talk to you.

I waited an hour this morning. Where were you?

I went a different way.

Why? Didn't we say we'd meet?

Yes, but...

You don't want to see me, huh?


Why not?

Because I'm tired of you and the stars you keep drawing on the walls.

Who do you think you are?

Whoever you want me to be.

You invite me to the movies, you take me to the park, you give me a kiss...

What of it?

"What of it"? You're making a big mistake.

You don't know me. I'm capable of doing anything.

You know why the girls call me "El Carioco"?

Well, you'll soon find out!


Hi. Leaving already?

Yes, or I'll be late.



This is from Milagros.

You can read it.

After school... when the lights came on and a faint glow remained in the sky, I loved to stroll alone leisurely through the city streets.

SHADOW OF A DOUBT I never forgot Irene Ríos.

I kept looking for her name on movie posters... but I never found her again.

It was if the earth had suddenly swallowed her up.

I often passed by a photography studio.

There in the window, among pictures of couples, schoolchildren, and soldiers, was my portrait.

Can you give me a light?

Most nights, before going to sleep, I'd write in my diary.

Rereading those pages today...

I see just how much I'd come to accept my father's crises as an inevitable part of daily life.

Perhaps that's why almost nothing I wrote hinted at what would happen later.

And yet one day my father had done something he'd never done before.

He came to get me at school... and took me to lunch at the Gran Hotel.

That autumn day, a wedding party occupied one of the dining rooms.

Hurray for the band!

Hurray for the wedding!

Hurray for the bride and groom!

I saw you this morning. Where?

You passed by the Café Oriental with a boy.

Yeah... Miguel.

They call him "El Carioco." He's a little crazy.

Is he dangerous?

No, he just draws on walls.

Ah, right. I believe I've seen some of his work.

He's a pain in the neck!

Is what he wrote true? I don't know.

He says it is, but I think he just wants attention.

But that's nice, isn't it?

Wanting attention?

Telling the whole world what you think.

It depends.

I'd like to.

Then why don't you?

Because I'm not "El Carioco."

We never talk seriously about anything.

And that's my fault, I suppose?

I guess so.

Mind if I order another drink? I don't care.

Why do you drink so much? Are you scolding me?

It was just a question.

Your coffee... and cognac.

Thank you.

Why did you bring me here? I don't know.

I suddenly thought you'd enjoy it.

I did... but why else?

I wanted to patch things up.

I know we didn't quarrel about anything this time.

But the other night, when you got home late...

I don't think I behaved well.

It wasn't to ask me something? No.

There are so many things I'd like to ask you.

Very well. Ask away.

Forget it. No, ask me.

There's one thing.

It may be silly.

I've always wanted to ask but never dared:

Who was Irene Ríos?

The actress. You knew her, didn't you?


I knew a woman who looked a lot like her.

But Irene Ríos, no.

What a letdown.

Then why did you write her name over and over?

I did that?

Yes. You don't remember?


Well, I do.

I found an envelope of yours once on which you'd written her name over and over.

It seemed sort of odd.

I didn't know who she was, and neither did Mom.

Then one day I saw her name on a movie poster.

A Flower in the Shadows.

I saw it.

Was it good?

I left early.

I know.

That afternoon I was walking by the theater when I saw your motorcycle.

I thought, "I bet he's inside."

I hid outside and waited. It was freezing cold.

I saw you come out, and I followed you down the street... until you went into the Café Oriental.

I saw you were writing a letter.

Then I knocked on the window.

You remember? You gave me a ride home.

It's true.

I'll be right back.

Nothing for you?

No, thank you. How's the wedding?

Like all the others.

Keep the flower.

Thank you.

I have to go.

So soon? It's time.

What class do you have?


Why don't you skip it?

You want me to cut class?

Yes. Really?


I don't understand you.

When you were this high, did you not understand me then either?

Dad, it's not the same thing.


You remember that paso doble?

You've forgotten.

"En er mundo."

We danced to it together.

Yes, the day of my First Communion.

I'm going.

Are you staying?

Yes. Bye.

Be careful with "El Carioco."

I left him there sitting by the window, listening to that old paso doble, all alone and left to his fate.

Was there more I could have done for him that day?

I've always wondered that... because that was the last time I ever spoke to him.

He'd emptied his pockets before leaving the house.

Among the things he'd left in a drawer...

I found a receipt from a long-distance telephone call.

That's how I found out that the last night of his life... my father had called down south... to a number I didn't recognize.

I kept that slip of paper and never breathed a word of it to anyone.

Why are you sleeping up here?

I was cold.

Why don't you go to your bed? It's not made up.

I'll make it up for you. No, don't.

It won't take a second.

WUTHERING HEIGHTS I fell sick a few days later.

Alone, shut up in my room... the hours seemed to drag on.

Everything's always on the floor!

What time is it? Almost noon.

I'm getting up. Don't you dare!

You know what your mother said.

I'm feeling better! Stay there and don't move!

The voice of Milagros came to my aid from down south.

Having learned of the situation, she easily convinced my mother that I should spend some time down there to recuperate.

Her reasons were valid ones.

I needed a change of climate for my health, and neither she nor Grandma Rosario had seen me in many years.

The night before I left...

I could hardly sleep.

Estrella, the taxi's here!

Although I didn't show it...

I was very nervous.

I was going to see the south at last.