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The young nobleman Calisto falls in love with Melibea, the daughter of a rich merchant. Calisto's servant Sempronio suggests they get the sorceress Celestina to further the romance. However Calisto's other servant Parmeno is suspicious of Celestina, as he knows about her tricks. After Celestina convinces Melibea of Calisto's love and arranges a brief clandestine meeting between them, Calisto gives Celestina a valuable chain of gold. Both servants are not satisfied with the whores supplied by Celestina and demand more from her, thus setting off a dramatic sequence of events. Written by
LA CELESTINA was written in 1499 by Fernando de Rojas and is considered to be second only to Cervantes' DON QUIXOTE as the greatest work of Spanish literature. Here the novel is adapted for the screen by Rafael Azcona, Francisco Rico, and Gerardo Vera, the last contributor serving as director of this sadly uneven film. Despite boasting a cast of some of the finest actors in Spain, the dialogue is such a mishmash of old rhythms and contemporary expressions that much of the magic is lost.
But then the story is a bit on the 15th century wild side: a handsome young knight Calisto (Juan Diego Botto) is obsessively in love with the beautiful Melibea (Penélope Cruz) yet it takes the love potions of the bruja Celestina (Terele Pávez), enlisted by Calisto's conniving servant Sempronio (Nancho Novo), to effect the magic. Calisto's faithful and humble servant Pármeno (Jordi Mollà) fails in his attempts to block the spells delivered by Celestina but to no avail. Once the magic is in effect the worlds of each person fall apart. The human passions of love, greed, lust, revenge, and desire interplay in a manner that brings destruction in the path.
Made in 1996 before many of the actors involved became famous, the film 'looks' magical with radiant costumes and sets and spot on music. But the dialogue is clumsy, the English translations even clumsier, and the whole story fails to work its spell on the audience. Instead of a fiery climax the film just sort of fizzles. But it is interesting to see Penélope Cruz, Juan Diego Botto, Maribel Verdú, Jordi Mollà and Nancho Novo in their early stage of development. This is an escapist period piece that could have been so much better, but even in this state it is entertaining. Grady Harp
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