Perhaps the oldest method of building known to humankind is the simple stacking of stones. If you choose the right stones, and prepare and place them in exactly the right position, a wall built in this way will be at least as sturdy as one built using mortar. This craft seems to have been overtaken by time, made obsolete by modern techniques. But this is precisely the reason that it can now be elevated to a form of art.
As we discover in this stunningly beautiful film, Santiago is a master of this technique. The title Bancal refersto the dry stone walls found throughout rural southern Europe. Rather than offering explanation or context, the film simply immerses us in Santiago’s actions—the searching for the stones, the trimming and chiseling, the positioning and arranging. It is simple and mundane, and simultaneously grand and mysterious. Just as Santiago is absorbed in his labor, so too are the filmmakers, as they attentively contemplate his intensely focused actions.