The Quiet Maid (Calladita) is the first feature by Miguel Faus. It is also the first European feature film to finance itself by selling NFTs. Will that play out in the plot as well, you ask? The answer may surprise you. Set in the opulent Costa Brava, the film follows Colombian Ana (Paula Grimaldo), who works as a maid for a wealthy art collector family. Her situation is far from ideal. She is working without a contract, but the woman of the house, Andrea (Ariadna Gil), promises that the paperwork will be fixed soon. Neighbour servant Gisela, whom Ana frequently hangs out with, explains that it’s a lie. With that in mind, Ana starts considering other options to change things.
The main reason that Ana is working overseas is to save money for her sister to study Medicine. Her relationship with Gisela is bound to get her into trouble and might even risk her livelihood. The latter is far too fond of drinking and dancing and, on one occasion, will bring her neighbour friend along as well. However, Ana is not only getting the taste of fun but also of what an opulent lifestyle would be like. One night, when the family is gone, she steals the daughter’s phone and pretends to be her on Tinder. One man falls for the ruse and comes to see her, and they have sex. Unfortunately, the son catches her in the act.
Is the Quiet Maid actually quiet?
The Quiet Maid is mainly shot in static long takes. Given the storyline, films like Martel’s La Ciénaga (2001) and works by other formalists like Hausner or Akerman come to mind. It would be an exaggeration to state that this debut feature reaches the level of those masters. Still, there is much to appreciate in The Quiet Maid, where every shot is planned with the utmost precision. The question is if that is true for the film as a whole. The depiction of the rich family occasionally slips into caricature, especially with the younger characters. Ariadna Gil (Pan’s Labyrinth, Belle Epoque) is particularly good as Andrea. The actors are generally fine throughout the film.
However, in many ways, the film rests on Paula Grimaldo’s shoulders. She is more than up to the task. From the relatively humble and quiet beginning to how her character becomes more scheming towards the end, she is an enthralling presence throughout the film in her first role. When she starts changing her situation for real, the former stationary camera will move with her. From her webpage and her Instagram account, it’s apparent that she is aiming for stardom. Antonio Gailsteo’s cinematography is constantly strong as well, whether Grimaldo is in the shot or not. For a film from 2023, The Quiet Maid is quite conspicuous with its female nudity, with no hint of shying away from close shots.
After selling NFTs, the film won the Steven Soderbergh Foundation Grand Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. The World premiere was at the Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn. The plot elements regarding the family’s wealth are not the film’s most interesting part but rather the illustration of the immigrant worker’s situation, which can change on a dime. However, the main reason to watch The Quiet Maid remains its style, which may not yet have reached its full potential, but it will be interesting to follow Miguel Faus in the future. It has been a good year for Spanish cinema with films like Samsara, Close Your Eyes (Cerrar los ojos), and Sobre todo de noche.