Sunday, March 30, 2008

Goya's Ghost

The critics called it a mess, which is probably why we get such rubbish movies in the theaters these days. This is a movie that requires you to concentrate on the plot and listen to the dialogue. You require a modicum of intelligence to understand it and to know a little bit more about the Spanish Inquisition than the fact that it appeared in a Monty Python sketch. This is the first Milos Foreman film since 1999 (remember he made Amadaus and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest). It is set over a period of 20 years and uses the character of Goya (played by Stellan Skarsgaard - Good Will Hunting), the famous Spanish painter as a backbone for the story. Brother Lorenzo is played by Spanish actor Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men). He directs the Spanish Inquisition who hit upon Ines Bilbatua (Natalie Portman) because she refuses pork at a restaurant (she must be a Judaizer). She is also Goya's model and truth be told Lorenzo has the hots for her. On the pretext of aiding her release he seduces her and fathers a daughter on her.

Goya is pressed by her father to get her released, but Lorenzo won't be bribed. When he is himself 'put to the question' by her family he realises that people will admit to anything under torture; such 'confessions' are worthless. He attempts to influence the Cardinal (played by Michael Lonsdale - Day of the Jackal) in vain and became an outcast. Ines remains in prison. Her father goes to the King for aid, but news comes that Napoleon has invaded. In the name of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, the French army sweeps all before it. The Inquisition is disbanded and prosecuted by none other than Lorenzo, now very secular with a wife and three children. He discovers from Goya that he has another daughter (also played by Portman) who is now a prostitute. He attempts to cover it up and seems to be succeeding. The French turn out to be just as brutal as the Spanish Inquisition and at last they are deposed by the British under Wellington (whose famous painting by Goya was stolen in real life and later turned up in an early Bond film). Lorenzo is captured and when the Inquisition is re-established he is offered redemption if he will repent. He refuses and is executed in a particularly unpleasant way. Ines by now is completely insane, has picked up a stray abandoned baby and follows the cart carrying his corpse while clinging to his dead hand. Her daughter has become the mistress of an English officer and Goya, completely deaf, is still one of the greatest artists of all time. his paintings and etchings provide an impressive backdrop to this film, which is sumptuously realized.

About half the critics gave this movie 4 or 5 stars (out of 5) but a lot gave it only one. It clearly polarizes people, but I think it was wonderful.

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