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Sunday, June 09, 2013

Goya's Ghosts

(click here for the Romanian version)

I wouldn't consider Goya's Ghosts as targeting exclusively the Spanish master and his universe of thoughts and dreads.There is also an underground level, emerging as the story is unraveling: about the very dreads haunting the film director, Miloš Forman. Goya's Ghosts are also Forman's Monsters.

It's a tough movie. Sure, an opportunity to admire some extraordinary paintings, and in all a movie of exquisite beauty, while extremely tough, and very sad.

A movie that can be understood in several ways. The story starts in 1792, it's Spain, the Inquisition has absolute power.  And the story goes on till it jumps over 16 years, in the period of Napoleonic occupation., that ends when British troupes come, fraternizing with the population and driving the French away. Inquisition regains absolute power.

The master is played by Stellan Skarsgård (I saw him playing also in Exorcist: The Beginning, as well as in some of von Trier movies). As the film starts, Goya is a man in full maturity, at the best of his creative forces. After 16 years he is old and weakened. After a whole life lived under the constraints of a society dominated by Inquisition, he finds himself under the constraints of Napoleonic occupation. Some of the new guys in charge are the same from the old regime, they only changed their ideological color.

A girl (Natalie Portman) is put in jail by the Inquisition and tortured to recognize a nonexistent crime. She remains jailed for sixteen years,  till the French occupy Spain and free all Inquisition prisoners. She is now old and insane. Immediately she goes home, to find all her family killed in the chaos brought by the French occupation. But I won't tell you the whole movie, it deserves to be watched.

Javier Bardem (I had known him from Mar Adentro and Carne Trémula - I saw him meanwhile in many other movies) makes a great role: an inquisitor seemingly understanding any pleas and trying to be of help in all this madness, while remaining a villain. A guy changing sides and coming again with the French Army as the new man in charge. Remaining the same villain. Till the end, when even he cannot endure his own villainy any more.

Many associated the movie with the war in Iraq and with Guantanamo. It could be  a level in understanding  Goya's Ghosts. Only the thing is that Forman wrote the screenplay before the Iraq War. Sometimes life is inspired by art, isn't it?

There is also another level in understanding Goya's Ghosts, and I think this level constituted the main interest for Miloš Forman. It's about the attitude an artist takes under an oppressive regime, the role he plays in the society, his responsibility.

Forman said once that the idea of making this movie came to him long time before, while visiting Madrid. At Prado he saw Goya's works: the paintings with personages from the royal court were hanged on one wall, and his Disasters of War were on the opposite wall. That raised a question to him: when was the artist true to himself?

I would say that in all his portraits of various aristocrats there is a subtle sarcastic dimension - it is always there something that thickens and exaggerates, telling us that the artist mocks his personages; only it is a well hidden mockery.

It's what the movie is just showing: the attitude of Goya  towards the people in power (be them aristocrats or inquisitors, or French occupiers) always was slightly ambiguous, slightly on the edge - he knew how much to push without crossing the line, being careful to cultivate powerful relations just in case.

His lithographs with The Disasters of War were sold in samizdat - they became official only after his death.

And this is, I think, the hidden meaning of this movie: through the story of Goya, there are the artists of Forman's time that are targeted: the artists from his native Czech Republic, living under Communist rule that followed in turn the Nazi occupation - all those people who knew how much to push without crossing the line, always aware of possible informers among them, trying to remain true to themselves while making minor or bigger compromises, mastering the art of survival.





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