When filmmaker Xavier Marrades discovered that his distant relative, Ramon, was closely bonded with an unusual animal, Marrades knew he had to meet him. “My mum showed me a picture of them together and it was quite unbelievable,” Marrades told The Atlantic. “A couple of months later, when I had established trust between me and Ramon, I asked him if he would be okay if I shot [a film] with him and his pet dove, Cucli.”
Over the course of four weekends, Marrades filmed Cucli, an exquisite short documentary about love, loss, acceptance, and how kismet wends its way into the mundane. Ramon, a recent widower, views Cucli as his new partner. They are inseparable; the dove sits perched on the truck driver’s shoulder as he traverses the Spanish countryside for days at a time. As Marrades became privy to the pair’s unique bond, it became clear to the filmmaker that Cucli was more than just a pet: the dove had transformed Ramon’s solitary existence into a transcendent journey. “Since the dove came, I see life in a different way,” Ramon says in the film. “I’ve changed radically.”
“Ramon is not a very talkative person in real life,” Marrades said, “and it was not until halfway through the filming process that I told him that I would need to interview him. We met a couple times in his room and had some conversations sitting by his bed. It was the first time that he talked about [Cucli and his beliefs] with someone, at least on such a deep level, and I was really moved.”
In the film, Ramon’s philosophical musings about consciousness, humanity, and the boundaries of the physical world are heard over poetic cinematography. Marrades trains the camera on streaks of light and other atmospheric textures from Ramon’s world. Were it not for the appearance of a drone at one point, the film might play as if from another time—perhaps a time when humans and animals communed as deeply as Ramon and Cucli.
“This dove fills me,” says Ramon in the film. “What else can I say?”
Xavier Marrades is currently in Brazil working on his next film, a documentary about dreams.