Friday 27 March 2015

The Garden of Delights [1970]

Saura began the 70s, easily the most explosive and devastatingly brilliant decade of his illustrious career, with The Garden of Delights. An absurdist, allegorical, subversive and trenchant socio-political critique of the Franco era, and the callous, self-serving allegiance of the bourgeoisie towards the dictator’s draconian regime in particular, the film served as a fabulous pre-cursor to his ‘Trilogy of Memories’, and the masterful Cousin Angelica in particular, in its incisive infusion of surrealism and memory as a dominant narrative device. Antonio (José Luis López Vázquez), a middle-aged man, and formerly a powerful businessman, residing in a palatial mansion, has become afflicted with amnesia, partial paralysis and speech impairment after a road accident, prompting his ageing father (Francisco Pierrá), his wife and his children to participate in a grotesque and elaborate game of recreating key incidents from his life in order to revive his lost memories. As is eventually disclosed, the reasons aren’t strictly borne out of familial love and care; rather, in order to recover the key to where his wealth is stashed as, post his handicap, the family’s fortunes have taken a nosedive taking them close to bankruptcy, even though their elaborate lifestyles might suggest otherwise. The hypocrisy, self-centeredness, superficiality and corruption that pervade their lives, and in turn Franco’s anti-Fascist stance, was laid threadbare in this brilliantly concocted work. The marvelously staged sequence, where Antonio’s communion at the hands of an orthodox and parochial priest is brought to a halt by a mob of rebels at the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, was the film’s indictment of Franco’s pet institutions at its most decisive and memorable.

Director: Carlos Saura
Genre: Drama/Social Satire/Black Comedy
Language: Spanish
Country: Spain

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