The painter Goya becomes involved with the Spanish Inquisition when his muse, Ines, is arrested by the church for heresy. Her father, Thomas, comes to him hoping that his connection with Brother Lorenzo, whom he is painting, can secure the release of his daughter. Written by
I think Goya is after all just a pretext. What Forman wanted to talk about is how people are overwhelmed by history. It's a difficult idea to be grasped for people who live in wealthy societies where nothing much happens and the biggest problems are having more money than you already have and what to do on Saturday night. But Forman manages to show you how you can be powerless and doomed when history moves fast--too fast. The real protagonist of the story is not the painter, but the former Dominican priest, whose life is totally changed--and ultimately destroyed--by the big historical events (the French Revolution, the French invasion of Spain, the English invasion of Spain, the Restoration). The same may be said for the other characters in the story. Goya is there as a witness, and as the symbolic figure of the artist who manages to create something even out of utter destruction. One could say that Goya's Ghosts are exactly those people and events Goya witnessed and can't get rid of, so that he has to turn them into drawings and paintings; but the term "ghost" also refers to what individuals are like in those moments when everything is changing and moving towards God knows what goal. The priest and the young girl and all the other people in the story are just pawns of history, who strut and fret on the stage and then disappear. Ghosts, because they can be annihilated in any moment. It's a sad truth, but it's truth, notwithstanding Hollywood's mythologies of super-heroes that can win against all odds. Joyce said that history is a nightmare one tries to wake up from; Forman showed us the nightmare, and the last nightmarish scene of this movie is one of those you can't forget.
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