A criminal, shoots and kills a painting restorer during a bungled burglary, and shoots her daughter as well. Twenty years later, the daughter has been left mute and with a mental age of a child, spending most of her time in a mental home.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Elena Irureta ...
Directora del Centro
Ramón Barea ...
Night Club Owner
Gregoria Mangas ...
Mrs. Millas
Marisol Saes ...
Mother (as Marisol Sáez)
Raquel Santamaría ...
Little Leire
Txarly Llorente ...
Super Pake Pekao ...
Gypsy Man (as Super Pako Pekao)
Elena Armengod ...
Gypsy Woman
Juan Ignacio Viñuales ...
Miguel Olmeda ...
Nurse 1
José María Sacristán ...
Nurse 2 (as José Sacristán)


Ismael Lopez, a petty criminal, shoots and kills a painting restorer during a bungled burglary, and shoots her daughter as well. Twenty years later, and the daughter Leire has been left mute and with a mental age of a child, spending most of her time in a mental home. A chance meeting between Leire and Ismael, who now works in a bar, leads Ismael to think that she still might be able to recognize him, and turn him in to the police. With the help of his girlfriend Maite, he kidnaps Leire and chains her to the bed in his house. He is unable to kill her, however, and instead asks the mental home for a ransom for her return. Whilst a prisoner, though, Leire and Ismael grow closer and closer through his attempts to make her laugh and their mutual love for chocolate. Written by Jonathan Broxton <j.w.broxton@sheffield.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

murder | See All (1) »


Drama | Thriller


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Release Date:

14 January 1994 (Spain)  »

Also Known As:

The Dead Mother  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Referenced in Absolon (2003) See more »


La Vie en Rose
Music by Louiguy
Lyrics by Édith Piaf
Performed by Lio
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User Reviews

An excursion into off-beat noir thriller film-making
21 September 2002 | by (La Rioja, Spain) – See all my reviews

`La Madre Muerta' is perhaps one of these films of the last 15+ years or so which belongs more to the Basque and Catalonian elements of film-making as opposed to being Spanish in essence and style. Juanma Bajo Ulloa is one of the most active in this school. Inasfar that Spanish is used in all his films, not Euskera, whereas many Catalonian directors use their own language, Bajo Ulloa has a peculiar style veering between the bizarre and the maccabre for putting his stories on screen. This was evident from his hilarious `Airbag' (1997)(qv). His intellectual capacity and seething imagination fuse into behest collaboration, making sure that none of his cinematographic works can be considered easy or comfortable viewing. Indeed, elements of verbal and physical violence are hallmarks of his trade, at times, one may feel inclined to argue, unbeseemingly or simply unnecessarily, adding to the global perspective of the feeling that one is seeing something which is not facile fodder. In Karra Elejalde he has found his perfect accomplice: both were born and brought up in Vitoria (Gasteiz), political capital of the province of Euskadi (Basque Country).

`La Madre Muerta' is a curious analysis of crude situations and persons in harsh scenarios. If Elejalde is brilliant as the tortured warped mind, Ana Álvarez is magnificent as the silent inmate of an asylum whose mental processes are so evidently switched off. Her part is essentially non-speaking in the whole film. You should compare her in this film with her rôle in `Brujas' (1996)(qv) and `Las Amargas Lágrimas de Petra von Kant' (2001)(TV)(qv), and it should become evident that we are talking about an actress of a very high standard. Both are well supported by the Portuguese-born actress Lio, and Silvia Marsó carries out an important secondary part very correctly.

Whilst Ismael and his girl-friend Maite are holding Leire captive, chained to a bed most of the time, because Ismael fears she might recognise him as the murderer of her mother, some incredible scenes unfold. However it is useless to consider this story as one which goes from scene to scene in any sort of sequence, nor is the development of any scene necessarily in the usual form of doing anything; Leire stares at him expressionless as he plays the clown in an effort to make her smile, and then the creaking wicker chair weighs in on the scene, adding its ominous note of doom-like metaphysicalness; similarly the effect inside the ruins of a dripping church with creaking wooden floorboards and steps; similarly when Blanca hides from Ismael behind doors and furniture in her attempt to snatch Leire from there, the muscles of her sphincter break down, and the consequent pool spreads out under the snoring Ismael in the wicker chair …….. .

Weird; bizarre and maccabre. Accompanied by the incredible symphonic material by Bingen Mendizábal, at the very least a beautiful suite in itself without the film. Add to that the extraordinary photography by Javier Aguirresarrobe, and you can be sure of something a little out of the commonplace. Compare the photography in this film with `99.9' (qv)and `The Others' (qv) and you will understand what I mean when I say he does not simply film the scenes but forms an active part in the making of feelings and sensations – absolutely a genius.

`La Madre Muerta' is not a film for just watching a story: go elsewhere; it is a film for studying the playing out of the scenes, not only by the actors themselves but also by the scenarios, the music and the photography. The result at times may be gruesome or even thrilling in a horrorific sense, guaranteed not to be relaxing viewing.

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