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There is one great flaw here that almost everyone mentions... and it's true. The accents of the non-Spanish actors clash terribly with the Spanish ones, as well as with each other. That's a real flaw, but if you can get past that, there's a great film waiting to be seen. I found I forgot all about it after the first 10 minutes. The critics just don't get this film. A lot of regular people seem to miss it too. They want a film with a typical "leading" role. They want their morality tales (which this certainly IS) delivered in easy shades of Black and White... no gray. They don't understand films where the title character is primarily an Observer. Sometimes that CAN be dissatisfying, but here the Observer is a genuine genius. Some people want him to be a moral giant, but he's not, he's simply an observer who has actualized the doctor's oath: First, do no harm. This is a brilliant story, and a morally complex one, too. There are some parallels to America in Iraq, though that is not the primary goal. This story illuminates the folly of any regime, liberal or conservative, as each picks its friends and foes, taking 180 degree turns from whoever was last in power. Javier Bardem gives an incredibly canny performance! Natalie Portman is totally unsentimental and totally committed to her multiple roles: just great! Stellan Skarsgard threw me off at first with the sound of his voice, but builds a performance of power and truth, in spite of it. Randy Quaid was a small revelation. And of course the film looks and sounds spectacular, with it's numerous and detailed textures, compositions and sounds. If you want to think; if you like having pat assumptions challenged; if you love people and history and art: see it!
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.
Masterpiece written by Jean Claude Carriere, who wrote, for example "El
discreto encanto de la burguesía" or "El fantasma de la libertad" with
Luis Buñuel. He also helped Buñuel writing "Mi ultimo suspiro",
This a movie not to explain, just to feel. Another great Forman movie, in my humble opinion better than "Man on the moon" or "Larry Flynt" (excellent movies anyway).
Buñuel wanted to do a movie about Goya. Maybe his friend Carriere is doing a bit like a tribute to him. Buñuel would have enjoyed this incredible movie.
Excellent performances by Javier Bardem, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard, Randy Quaid and everyone involved.
Hollywood will have to wait for long time to see again films of such quality,films that are condemned not to have a big commercial success but films that will remain in the history of art of cinema.The "ghosts of Goya" is taking us back to a past time showing with incredible reality the conditions of this time,and helped by a great performance of the actors,Milos Forman gives us another sample of his rare directing talent.In the question which film i like most "Amadeus" or "the ghosts of Goya" i can't decide which is more great,Mozart-a genius of music composing,Goya-a genius of painting,aspects of their lives under the unique look of Milos Forman.When i went to see this movie,here in a small town of Greece,there were only 25 people in the cinema,while films like "300" were played here for 2 months with the halls full of people.What can i say?History will judge us all...
I saw it yesterday on film festival. And it was great.
When I was reading the description of the movie, I had some doubts. It seemed it would be yet another film about bad, intolerant catholics and good and democratic atheists. I'm just fed up with that kind of films. But it was not so. In a short - it's a great film with bad description.
What it really is about, is that it doesn't matter what principles one believes in if their life is doesn't match these principles. Both inquisitors and French democrats were capable of same brutality - always, of course, in name of some noble idea - love, freedom, equality... It's not sentimental or pathetic and it doesn't try to tell you what is "the only truth". It simply says that its not principles and ideas that are bad - its people. Characters are very human, with many errors - but, at the same time, each of the characters, even "villains" have moments when you will like them. It is also because the film changes perspective several times, and those who were despots become victims.
Maybe its not the best Forman's film, but it is very good.
Imagine the paintings and drawings of Goya in all their darkness and beauty coming to life - this is Milos Forman's masterful film. Goya (and us)witness the folly of the Spanish royal court, the murderous sadistic perversion of the Catholic Church, the cruel inhumane madness of the Napoleonic War, along with the sensuality and beauty of life passing. This is the film's main focus: to let us experience the time and place as if seen through Francisco de Goya's eyes. As expected of a Milos Forman's film, the locales, the customs, and the overall production replicates the Spain of the late 18th century and early 19th century with the exactitude of a court painting. The cast is also excellent. As an Inquisitor turned a Napoleon's officer, Javier Bardem deserves another Oscar nomination. Stellan Skargsdar as usual does a chameleon-like transformation this time into Goya. Natalie Portman elevates herself into a higher realm of acting as the doomed, beautiful Ines. And Randy Quaid steals the screen for a few seconds as the King. Milos Forman again has given us an emotionally- and intellectually-challenging portrait of a dark era and the role of art and artist. Although some of the dramatization is slightly contrived, the film is compelling and moving and its vision lingers as Goya's art.
I read someone else's comment on IMDb (much more adulatory than I would
be for Goya's Ghosts), who said that it was a masterpiece not only for
Milos Forman and co-writer Jean-Claude Carriere, but for Luis Bunuel
too. And that intrigued me even more than I was already in anticipation
for the film, merely before as a Forman fan. Upon seeing it I can
understand the enthusiasm, and had a kind of private, nearly perverse
pleasure in recognizing (maybe too obviously on a subjective level)
little things that popped up when Carriere and Bunuel collaborated on
some of the late master's best works. On the other hand, for those not
too familiar with films like the Phantom of Liberty, the Milky Way or
That Obscure Object of Desire, Goya's Ghosts may seem like strong,
strange film-making that starts to go a little more haywire after the
half-way title card "15 Years Later" (possibly another in-joke for Un
Chien Andalou fans) pops up. But it's not only certain things regarding
the line between true drama and surrealism that marks Forman's latest
as something interesting.
Matter of fact, it is a flawed film, notably in the casting of Stellan Skarsgaard as Goya himself. Why cast a Swedish actor, who usually isn't necessarily bad in the character-actor parts he takes on, in the role of one of the most decadent and ribald *Spanish* artists in the past 250 years of worldwide painting? Skarsgaard doesn't do too much to elevate the part outside of being the guy on the sidelines, dramatically trying to not get too much into the situations, at first, but then soon becoming like a match-maker in the second half when "daughter" drama happens between an ex-"Brother" and an ex-prisoner-of-inquisition. And yet, there is perfect casting in having Barden as the Brother Lorenzo, who doesn't change in how he tries to push aside any of the problems in his life that he doesn't want to deal with, be it questions of real faith, taking care of a certain lost woman, and his illegitimate child, even as he changes from man of the cloth to revolutionary in several years time. Seeing him in the first half in that black robe, his eyes dark and leering of Goya and even the Church to an extent, it's not wonder that he's one of the most sought-out actors of his time. And even better then that, as far as conventions go, he gets the truest kind of arc with his character.
Then there's Natalie Portman who, as probably as something of both an in-joke/reversal of the tactic used in 'Obscure Object' with two actresses playing the same woman, and a sort of disintegration-of-soul aspect that Forman might be after ambivalently, embodies the crushed innocence of repressive religion. Ines is tossed into a prison following a confession- whether true or not is left nicely vague- that she's Jewish following a questioning of what she ate, and left for more than a decade. Seeing her in this section it's clear she's lucid in her presentation of a simple characterization: sweet and naive, then later torn into oblivion by insanity and a near absurd desperation to find the child she birthed while in prison. When she plays the daughter it's a little more flat and pat, as all we see of her is as a 14 year-old (yes, 14 year-old) harlot. This mixed-up matching of actors (plus a few bits with Randy Quaid as a well-played pudgy king) is set to a backdrop of Spain where society is merciless and without much compromise unless the regime changes, which is towards one way (the ultra strict Catholics) or the other (the flawed Napoleon revolution people). Meanwhile, Goya, deaf, sketches away in drawings that today seem right out of graphic novels.
As mentioned, one may get some moments of random surprise as opposed to fully stark costume drama; the first appearance of Portman's daughter played by herself is a little doozy; the way the cardinal tells his choir boy to keep reading the passage even as the French soldier on horseback rides in with a decree, then shoots the boy midway through; the emergence of the British army going towards and swarming around a cart of 15 prostitutes left out in a field; the very last scene, where a cart carrying a dead man is followed by...say no more. So there is a drawback, or more than one at any rate, to Forman going for telling about the nature of the society around Goya than too much about Goya himself. It is a disappointment too to not get entirely, aside from the 'her face haunts me from that painting' logic, as to why Goya is so infatuated with Ines and her plight in the first place. There's not much to be seen into the man who drew such scandalous drawings whilst being the king's painter. What we get instead, which is intriguing and involving, if not totally successful, a story of corruption from the 'Powers-That-Be', and when it strikes at this Forman and Carriere get some good, juicy entertainment. 7.5/10
A film by Milos Forman is always an event. This will probably not
remain as one of the best in his career, and was surrounded by a level
of controversy, not the least among critics who received it very
differently. Yet, it is certainly a film to watch.
The story actually does not have Goya (Stellan Skarsgård) in the center. It is rather the story of a corrupt morality policeman of the 18th century (Javier Bardem) imprisoning a young girl (Natalie Portman) on the unjust suspicion of practicing Judaism in secret. It is the story of a police state built on social injustice relying on pretended moral puritanism in order to save the system. This happens at the price of huge human suffering like the drama in the center of the story, and here is the painter as a witness, living the dilemma of becoming involved as a human or remaining a witness as an artist. We know what path Goya chose.
I was not unhappy neither with the acting, nor with the story line, although it is a little bit too melo-dramatic and too much prone to coincidences. Forman is not so much focused on the drama or better say melo-drama, or even in the historical detail, although he seems to be on familiar ground getting back to the period in 'Amadeus'. What he is busy with seems to be more re-creating some of Goya's paintings and prints and tracing back the origin of inspiration of these masterpieces. In a way the film can be read as justification of the choice Goya made in life.
This movie had a great storyline and kept one's attention from beginning to end, a well directed movie, I believe one of the best I've ever seen. While some period movies are overwhelmed by the attention to period detail, in this movie the background enhances and makes the movie more believable. The acting was very well performed and all the actors deserve equal mention. I would see this movie again and recommend to all. I have no doubt that this movie will garner many awards in many categories! The costumes, the backdrops and scenery were bar none and worthy of many accolades. The historical context is well worth mentioning. A terrific period in Spain's history that left a long and hideous scar on its glorious and eventful history. Enjoy and share this movie with a friend and then enjoy comparing notes of what each of you saw and felt especially attracted to!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had hesitated so much to go to see this movie because I thought it
is a period drama and I won't like the aristocracy, and I had assumed
that this was a French or Spanish movie. To my surprise it is an
The story is around a painter Francisco Goya (played by Stellan Skarsgard) during the turbulent times (1790-1810) when Napoleon invaded Madrid. But do not be mistaken this is not the story of Goya. The Director (Milos Forman) uses painter Goya just to provide a canvas for two main characters to emergethe corrupt Brother Lorenzo (played brilliantly by Javier Bardem) and the innocent Ines (played outstandingly by Natalie Portman).
Ines after being wrongly detained by Christian church to prison is impregnated by Lorenzo, who runs away and later joins hands with Napoleon to come back (after 15 years) as a high official to find that Ines is the mother of his child who is now the young street prostitute. With British invading Spain, Lorenzo is publicly prosecuted and the last scene shows Ines holding the hand of the dead body of Lorenzo taken out of the town in a horse cart.
Hats off to Director Milos Forman (remember One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus) who after 7 years of making movies took a sabbatical from his teaching career to make this movie. And what a marvelous movie he has made worth the wait.
The main plot is about the human race and its bigotry. The times are historic, yet significantly apply to today's world. Javier Bardem and Natalie Portman have given their award winning performances especially Natalie Portman plays the role of the young Ines, old Ines and young prostitute daughter with such different range of get-over and acting that she astonishes us with her versatility and ease.
But the movie belongs all in all to Milos Forman. As is the class of all great directors the musical score is magnificent. The nuances of undertones of each character's thoughts are presented aptly with perfect casting. Milos always entertains us with his subtle comedy but I would call it as a black humor (I published last week that I do not understand black humor of "Hot Fuzz"). Now after seeing this movie I can say that I now know and understand what is black humor perfectly well. If you like the movie do not miss the ecstatic painting displayed during the unveiling of last titles. They are masterly selected by the master crafts person Milos.
If you are movie fan and are philosophical doubter (tribute to my Guru Andreas Hensel who is one) of everything please go and see this wonderful movie.
(Stars 8 out of 10)
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