Directed by Victor Erice. Spain. 1992.

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This contemplative film shows the trials and tribulations of artist Antonio Lopez's efforts to capture the image and essence of the ripening quince tree in his garden. 

As he surrounds the tree with painted markings, string and a huge plastic shelter, fellow artists, friends and building workers visit him and survey his work. In the process of laboriously painting and sketching the tree they observe and question him, and we in turn watch these different levels of observation (a theme repeated by the inclusion of shots of people watching TV in the block of flats across the road). 

His obsession with precisely positioning himself and the tree with markings (that eventually cover the tree like bird droppings) is justified by his explanation that he is trying to combine reason with intuition. 

Lopez is a fussy and dedicated artist. As the camera leisurely watches his activities we come to share his love of the shape, colour, texture and play of light upon the ripening quinces. 

The people in the film are not professional actors and the scenes seem unscripted and natural. In this sense it is a documentary that tries to slowly unfold in front of us the work of an artist, but at heart it tries to dig to the very roots of artistic experience. 

In Erice's project to bring out the dreams and symbology of the quince tree, the delight of the artist's eye is corrupted by the pretensions of trying to instil profound meanings into simple pleasures. Thus, we are offered scenes of the artist reclining, as if slipping into dreams of death, and self-conscious shots of a film camera and floodlight repeating the human artist's attempt to capture the essential image of the quince tree. Far better if we could have been allowed to enjoy the tree with Lopez and his friends without spoiling the fruit with such film school trickery. 

The final irony is that Lopez cannot capture the tree on canvas. The light is always changing and he can't complete his work despite all his methodological, organisational and imaginative powers. This is an on-going struggle with interpreting nature and the essence of life itself, as such the canvas will never be completed to anyone's satisfaction, least of all the artist's. 

The Quince Tree Sun does bear cinematic fruit, but whether you will like the taste is another matter entirely. 

Nigel Watson
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