The Offering (2021) Film Review: Catalan Cinema Transcends
The Offering is an intense psychodrama where the act of forgiveness, and the extent to which we’ll go to receive it, destructs that which we try to salvage.
Anyone who has ever experienced a loss of a loved one will tell you the importance of asking for forgiveness, or being forgiven, before it is too late. Most people inadvertently easily spend half their lifetime in bitter agony rather than stepping up to the task of burying the hatchet. Which is exactly the subject of Ventura Durall’s (Las Dos Vidas de Andrés Rabadán, Bugarach) newest feature film The Offering (L’Ofrena). The act of forgiveness, and the extent to which one is willing to go to receive it, form the basis of this intriguing tale of a love that spans through twenty years. It throws you into the deep end of the raw emotions concerning life and death, and it reveals how destructive redemption can be.
The Offering follows Rita (Verónica Echegui, Fortitude, You’re Killing Me Susana) a stunning but emotionally unbalanced woman, and Jan (Alex Brendemühl, Transit, The German Doctor) who is, after twenty years, still pining for his ex, Violeta (Anna Alarcón, A Thief’s Daughter, The Vampire of Barcelona), to the point of obsession. Rita and Jan create a complex and perverse plan with the aim of reuniting Jan and Violeta, even if that means a complete upheaval of Violeta’s carefully crafted life. Now a psychiatrist and a mother of two, she has no intention of letting anyone break through the sky-high wall she built around her heart and emotions. Jan, buckled under a profound sense of guilt, might not have the same intentions to their relationship as Violeta is suspecting.
While one narrative unfolds, another narrative, set twenty years earlier, slowly swells to a fast-approaching climatic denouement. We meet rebellious young Violeta, played by the formidable Claudia Riera (The Boarding School: Las Cumbres, The Hockey Girls), and a charming independent young Jan (Josh Climent, The Blue Star, The Innocence). With the gorgeous Catalan landscape as a backdrop to their love-story, it is not hard to imagine how carefree and deep their summer lovin’ can be. The narrative builds up to a grand reveal, a devastating event that led to them being driven apart for twenty years and nearly destroyed Violeta’s capability to love again. The main plot in The Offering, the present day, circles around this unspoken event but never actually delves deeper into what happened.
The result is a tantalizing tale that keeps up the suspense until the last minutes of the denouement. It might be my perverse sadistic imagination, or a cleverly developed narrative, that led me to think that something more gruesome and severe must have stood between Jan and Violeta. The resulting unsatisfying ending leaves us with an unhealthy hunger for sadism and tension that portrays exactly the core of Jan and Violeta’s destructive relationship. The Offering builds on and plays with this uncertainty of not knowing, both on screen with Jan’s obsession and Violeta’s cold hatred, and off-screen by never revealing what happened to justify Jan and Violeta’s strong sentiments. Frustrated by not being kept in the loop of The Big Event, the viewer thus feels equally for both parties instead of feeling a clear victim/culprit division that inherently implies judgment.
The film thus explores the grey space that exists between two people, and how not knowing another person’s thoughts and feelings, or lacking the courage to ask them about it, can lead to remorse and resentment that ultimately brings on the desire to clear your guilt and be in someone’s good favour again, to be forgiven. The Offering is a mythical story full of thematic elements representing the passing of loved ones, reconciliation with the past, the act of forgiving yourself and someone else, and ultimately, the offering itself, a sacrifice ceremonially offered as a part of worship. The film makes it clear that the most human aspects of life can manifest themselves in the ugliest ways, and asks the viewer to decide which approach to trauma is the healthiest, whether it is to have too many (Rita), or too few (Violeta) emotions, to worship past love to the point of obsession (Jan), or to shut the world, and the past, out with pills (Violeta). It challenges to what extent the act of forgiveness benefits either person, and whether or not it will truly give the guilted and remorseful person peace of mind, at the cost of leaving the forgiver with a painful revisit that may have consequences they cannot turn back on.
The Offering is a powerful tale reminiscent of Greek tragedies that is both beautiful in its execution and painful in its exploration of the deep, dark parts of humanity. It is an inescapable film, as we often blur the boundaries between the good, the ugly and the necessary to move forward in life with an unburdened heart. Subjects that are rather not talked about, forgiveness, obsession and festering traumas, are sadly all too present in our lives and deserve an honest and raw depiction of their hopeful yet devastating potential. The Offering is, above all, a human film, with stellar performances and beautiful cinematography that lift its raw and insatiable plot to stunning levels.
The Offering will be released on 30th July, 2021 in the UK, where it will be available to watch in cinemas, on Virtual Cinemas and on VOD.