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Marcia Gay Harden,
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Pedro Miguel Martínez
DESEO is a strong story by Ángeles Caso brought to the screen by director Gerardo Vera with a fine cast, a story that attempts to clarify the puzzling factions in Spain of 1945 and only succeeds moderately well in allowing the viewer to understand the political machinations of a tortured Spain at war on civil as well as international grounds. The script is smart and the delivery of the various characters by a talented cast allows some insights into the dilemma that still confuses historians: more important for a film, the dimly lit fractions do supply a fine background for a love story.
In Franco's Spain there are communists, fascists, monarchists, and republicans. We meet a family once well appointed before Franco's overthrow of the monarchy (the father of the family was assassinated by Franco's soldiers): the mute mother (Rosa Maria Sardà) is tended by two daughters - Raquel (María Vázquez) and Elvira (Leonor Watling) whose husband Julio (Ernesto Alterio) is imprisoned for being a communist. Living at near poverty level after a previous life of culture, Elvira finds a job as a maid with Pablo (Leonardo Sbaraglia), a wealthy Argentinean who with his strange 'friend' Alina (Cecilia Roth) maintain undercover ties to Hitler. There is an immediate attraction between the cultured Elvira and Pablo and a love of poetry and intellectual matters soon develops into a physical relationship. Elvira struggles against falling in love as her husband is due to be released from prison, but re-entering the luxury world of her childhood, affording her the ability to make enough money to keep her mother and sister in better conditions, softens her heart and she falls in love with Pablo. Pablo is warned by Alina that their 'mission' to help Nazi officers to escape to Peron's Argentina may be hampered by Elvira's past and her political association with anti-Nazi groups. When Hitler dies and Julio is released from prison, the crises politically and emotionally reach a breaking point and as with all war stories there is no full resolution of the effects on people's lives, lives fractured by the transient factions in a country torn by disparate commitments and betrayed trusts and loves.
Despite the at times confusing progression of the plot, the presence of such superb actors as Cecilia Roth, Rosa Maria Sardà, Leonor Watling, and Leonardo Sbaraglia (complemented by minor roles by Emilio Gutiérrez, Gloria Muñoz, Jordi Bosch and Norma Aleandro) make this an involving drama. The period costuming is excellent and the musical score by Stephen Warbeck ably enhances to tense and erotic atmosphere. While not a great movie, it is certainly worth viewing for both the love story and for some further insights into Spain's political history. Grady Harp
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