Finite Focus: Tomatina

If you have seen today’s “Google Doodle,” or read this VOX story, you will know that today is the 70th Anniversary of La Tomatina. The strange Spanish festival in which as many as 50000 people have a tomato fight and soak in the acidic juices until the authorities fire-hose the lot clean.

In Lynne Ramsay’s magnificent 2011 film, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Tilda Swinton plays a mother who is resentful of both her having a child and her own upper-middle class domestication. She remembers her experience in Buñol, packed between young writhing bodies kicking around and basking in red juices. In another part of the film, Ramsay also uses Swinton framed in a grocery store by a wall of canned (tamed) tomatoes as the prison that mid-life has become.

The flashback sequence was shot during the 2010 Tomatino festival with Swinton in the middle, gloriously wide-screen and slow motion. The scene ends with Swinton’s mother waking up and leaving her house to find it (and her car) splashed in red paint by her fellow citizens, as her son, possibly stewed in the resentment and frustration of the mother, has grown up to become a neurotic sociopath responsible for murdering his fellow students in a school shooting – which of course is young people splashed in a different kind of red. Nature, meet nurture. Symbolism meet irony.