goya’s ghosts

it took me a while to figure out what was wrong with “goya’s ghosts.”   it’s a “sweeping” historical film (released in 2007) about spain in late eighteenth / early nineteenth century that is ostensibly held together by the character and work of francisco goya.    i rented it based on the milos forman / saul zaentz collaboration and a couple of recommendations (david, whose taste i always trust, being one).      “amadeus” this ain’t.   like “amadeus,” the cinematography is artful.    unlike “amadeus” nothing, not even the completely fictional narrative, holds it together.

i’m afraid i’m going to have to summarize the plot if i want to keep bitching…     inés, a girl from a wealthy merchant family and goya’s muse, is ludicrously accused by the inquisition.   she is tortured and confesses.   while in prison she is raped by a priest, brother lorenzo.   her family attempts to free her and in the process discredits lorenzo (though they never know he raped their daughter) and embarrasses the inquisition.   lorenzo fleas.   fifteen years later, inés is freed by the invading french (who also murder her family).   goya attempts to help her find the daughter born while she was in prison and seeks help from lorenzo (not knowing he is the father of the child) who has returned to madrid with the french to prosecute the inquistors.

the simple truth is that this train-wreck-of-a-film bit off more than it could chew.    wanna make a movie about an artist?    make a movie about an artist.    wanna make a movie about the atrocities of the inquisition?    make a movie about the inquisition.    the corrupting force of power?     you get the idea…   the worst scene in the movie has lorenzo describing inés’ daughter, alicia, as a whore to goya.    the deaf goya believes lorenzo is calling him a whore and angrily returns the insult.    of course they are both as guilty of selling themselves as alicia.    who isn’t on some level?

there is a beautiful scene in which goya makes an etching, step-by-step.    and the film nicely borrows imagery from goya’s work.      but that isn’t done as well as “girl in the pearl earring” or derek jarman’s caravaggio or the way alfonso cuaron utilized imagery from contemporary news in “children of men.”

this one’s probably not worth seeing.