The story in this film leaves lots of room to speculate about its message. It plays in a fictitious Latin-American republic, ruled by a dictator. The main character Arcibel is employee at a newspaper, where he is responsible for the chess articles and the crossword puzzles. He is divorced, and has a young daughter. One day he has an accidental meeting with two street girls. On the same day he is arrested, and the police magistrate accuses him a of hiding a subversive message in his newest chess article. This makes him a political dissident, and he is locked up in prison for an indefinite time. The repressive state system realizes that he is innocent, and that the accusation was made solely in order to justify the existence of the security service. However, the system boasts its infallibility, and therefore Arcibel must remain in prison and forgotten for the rest of his life. There he meets lots of real political dissidents, and these awaken his political consciousness. The news of of Che Guevaras' death brings great sadness to the inmates (just to sketch their political orientation and atmosphere). Arcibel has recurring hallucinations about one of the street girls. After some twenty years his daughter discovers his existence, due to the fact that she has been given his job at the newspaper. She visits him for the first time. In the mean time Arcibel has lost all desire to leave his prison environment, but she keeps visiting him on a regular basis and hides messages in her articles. Then a young inmate is housed in the same cell as Arcibel. Arcibel educates him, and teaches him a strategy in order to beat the dictator and win the revolution. After some years the young man is released, and behold, he starts and wins the revolution. Arcibel has become the martyr and is praised as the ideological theorist of the uprising. He is freed and the young man marries his daughter. Basically the story is credible. Perhaps in Latin America this film is valued because it contains many incidents, that are recognizable. In Latin America, the use of violence remains a part of the political spectrum, and the social injustice is still smarting and bitter. The memory of Che lingers on, and in some republics a revolution might be part of a democratic solution. But being a European, I find it difficult to relate to the story, and to sympathize with the main characters. The role of the street girls remains a mystery for me (in itself fantasizing in a prison cell is normal). Is this a film about revolution? About the political corruption? About imprisonment? About a goalless life? Perhaps I have missed some hidden deeper layers in the film.
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