Don Segundo Sombra (1926) is one of the two best known Argentine poems about the gaucho (it is actually a novel, narrated in the first person by one of the protagonists). The other is El Gaucho Martin Fierro (1872) a verse epic that became the national poem of Argentina. Both works are instantly known to most Argentines (they used to be and still probably are required reading at school). However, Don Segundo Sombra's popularity was and is restricted to the educated; Martín Fierro became immensely popular also among the gauchos themselves.
Of the two works, Martin Fierro is by far the most realistic; gauchos are seasonal migrant workers eking out a marginal livelihood, without a fixed dwelling place, unable to raise a family and mistreated by authorities and employers. Ricardo Güiraldes, the author of Don Segundo Sombra was a wealthy landowner and his gauchos are somewhat idealized and mythic; they seem not to have cash flow problems and their solitary rootless life is a proud choice rather than a consequence of the social order; being without land or property is presented as "freedom" (a peculiar statement from somebody that lived most of the time in Paris supported by the income from his vast landholdings). The character Don Segundo Sombra is depicted as a walking embodiment of all gaucho virtues (wisdom, loyalty, bravery, independence). The novel's style is studiously (as opposed to spontaneously) simple, frequently too elaborated and metaphor-rich for the narrator.
Both works have been made into fine movies, Martin Fierro by Leopoldo Torre Nilsson (1968) and Don Segundo Sombra by Manuel Antin in this movie. Don Segundo is played authoritatively (if somewhat monotonously) by the author's nephew Adolfo Güiraldes, an expert on Argentine folk stories; this film seems to be his only acting credit. The narrator is well played by another nonprofessional, Juan Carvalledo. The supporting cast includes many well known Argentine actors. The script follows closely the novel (perhaps too reverentially). Cinematography and music are good, and direction is well paced. A movie worth watching.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?