During the Last Bastion of the Spanish Inquisition, 1790-1810, An Inquistador named Lorenzo (Javir Baldem) is being painted on various visits by artist Fransisco Goya when his fellows say Goya is painting whores as angels. Lorenzo tries to defend his work, saying it is those people--the whores and maimed --who the church needed to reach, to keep them from committing acts against God, not the artist just painting what he saw; then tells younger church leaders to pick up the Inquisition, search for those secretly practicing other religions.
Into this hyped -up search for heathens, a rich merchant's young daughter out one evening (Natalie Portman as Inez) is said to have refused to have eaten pork , making her practicing Jewish rituals secretly...Incidently she is a model Goya used who was an angel on a church ceiling; Lorenzo displayed an interest in her by asking if long hours with such models made Goya think of other things, and what was her name. Goya ignores the last but says "You have too acute an eye, Brother Lorenzo." When the girl's father comes to him and says Inez is a Church prisioner, Goya is angry but refuses to ask Lorenzo about her freedom.
The father donates all his gold to the church for his daughter. Goya allows him to leave the gold , pay for the painting of the Brother, and tells Brother Lorenzo the deal. She is kept by the Catholic Church for trial, and "put to the question" ,which brother Lorenzo has learned for her family but believes in the sanctity of--if you were innocent, God gave you the fortitude to withstand torture and you didn't sign guilt to a lie. Lying to escape torture went against God. If you lied you were just as much a heretic as if you'd done the act. The girl has admitted she did it after extreme torture and Brother Lorenzo tries to take leave of her family when her father has his sons and servants hold him. Goya, also present, is telling the father," you don't treat Brother Lorenzo like that !" when they grab him and bar the doors. They will let Goya free alone. After torture, Brother Lorenzo signs a rediculous paper that he had to be tortured pretty bad to sign. The father says he will produce it if Lorenzo does not get his daughter out.
Lorenzo is next seen walking slowly down the Church's prison hall, looking into cells. He finally finds the girl, younger and dressed in rags that show her more sexual than even the artist had made her in sheer angel gowns. He tries to look away and put his overcoat on her but as she leans to him to pray with him and he watches the sharp little mind love his Lord so much and speak so fast and earnestly, he suddenly pulls her to him and says "I do care about you, I do" and "that's alright" as she struggles. His new discovery is a selfish one (it doesn't mattter if she cares about him, he hasn't asked if he can hold her tight, he is only learning that the real girl in the painting, so infatuating, was someone he also actually cared for.) He may also have meant that in matters of the flesh he had not expected to care about his target. So he'd go to her , say do you want to pray with me, at which she'd fall into his love, say "Love me".Obviously he did--years later he learns they had a child.
Meantime the rich merchant has brought the Catholic Tribunal or whatever the signed statement and they are searching for Lorenzo, who has fled. Goya is visited by the church who takes his painting of Lorenzo away as part of a heresy trial they're working up on him. Lorenzo's signature showed the merchant and townspeople that torture did not work and was unfair; it showed church heads that people were in danger of not trusting "The Question" and that God gave His people fortitude to withstand torture--only bad people signed, making Lorenzo a false man of God.
Although Lorenzo was alone in Inez's room with her at least several times, he never tried to help her escape, even when he ran, himself--he left her there. He ran to France where the French Revolutionaries got him into a Spanish Revolution. He comes back as a leader of the Spanish uprising., and has fun sentencing to death the old Church leader who wanted him killed. He has a nice office into which Goya comes, now fully deaf. He tells Lorenzo that Inez was finally released, after Lorenzo says he could never forget the family--they were what changed him. Lorenzo has him bring her in.
She's a mess. She's just found no one waiting for her on release, walked home, and her family was dead around the stripped house. She has not combed her hair or looked in a mirror, has a "mad" twist to her mouth, but lights up at sight of Lorenzo and runs to him and begins to kiss his hand all over. Lorenzo kind of sits where she can't keep it up and asks gently what he can do for her. She says they took her baby. She says "our baby." He tries, looking at the deaf artist, to correct her. She says he's the only man she's been with. He asks if she knows how long she was locked up. She has no idea. (The baby would be 20). She's still looking for a baby she can raise. Lorenzo has a wife he loves, he's told Goya, and children, and can make 10 paintings, his family is so big now.He tells Inez two men will take her to her baby and she leaves happily. Goya demands to know where he really sent her. "She is out of her mind, she'll always be safe," Lorenzo says." Part of her insanity is to think he could have fathered a baby with her; Sorry she's changed to this.... Goya doesn't buy it and tracks down the baby and finds it is a hooker in a hooker park.
On his own Lorenzo has already tracked babies who were born in the Catholic dungeons and found she had run from an Catholic orphanage at age 7 and has cautiously also asked if the parents' names were written anywhere and told no. He has a soft, smiling manner of asking and it doesn't seem he is collecting very important information . He fondled a young girl's head in the orphanage, whom he seemed to hope was his, asking which one in the room was her, looking at all these girls under 18. But that's when they said none; she ran off at age 7. Her given name was Alicia. Now Goya comes to see him again. He has found the daughter. Where? Lorenzo demands. Goya bitterly tells.Lorenzo says in his calm way, " How do you know this is Inez's child?" "Because she looks exactly like the face I saw whenever I shut my eyes, the face that's haunted me all my life,..." As Goya goes on Lorenzo says "You are obsessed with Inez!" and Goya defends himself. He's looking out for her, which Lorenzo knows in his heart he is not. Goya has seen Alicia get in a rich man's carraige and go off for the night; the old lady peddling her say Goya can have her next. What he doesn't know is that Lorenzo is on that carraige, one time we are unexpectedly happy to see actor Javier Baldem, and when Alicia (Natalie Portman, also) tries to move on him, slaps her away angrily. This is his daughter. He offers to send her to America, he wants her to leave Spain (so Goya can't force a meeting). The girl gets sassy and attacks and is out of there like a bobcat while the big heavy Lorenzo is left asking her to please come back. Later Goya tries to arrange for the two to meet, after Lorenzo warns him with deep anger that there is no way he is going to help a mother learn that her daughter is a harlot and asks why he won't leave it alone. Goya has Inez, who he bailed out of a home for the insane, in his carraige and is in the bar trying to get Alicia to come out and meet her. Alicia says"Why would I care?" but then a counter-revolutionary attack with the Bitish involved enters the bar and arrests the harlots, dragging Alicia away so that she looses her baby she was holding. Another girl has handed it to her while going off on a date, but we never know if it is really Alicia's or not. It is left crying under a table. Inez has gotten out of the carraige and walks upon the carnage, used to it, and picks up the baby. She later talks to the shocked Goya like it's hers. He has seen Alicia carted off.
Alicia's group are freed by some handsome British , one who Alicia catches the eye of with a winking smile.
Goya is in Lorenzo's office . They are accusing each other of whoring to be there. Lorenzo went from church to revolution-- -well, Goya paints for the king, paints for the new leadership when the King is deposed, paints for anyone, paints for money, Lorenzo spits. At least, maybe he didn't see the light at first, but Lorenzo has morals. Just then there is news that the British are advancing , no one is stopping them, and Lorenzo runs out and gets his wife and kids hurriedly in a coach and is following them on horse when the Brits reach him. He turns off to let the coach get away, and mobs reach him and drag him into town, where the Catholics are reinstated in power and try him instantly, find him guilty, and sentence him to death. If he repents he will be spared. He looks at them, throws their pen down. He did not pass this test last time.
This time he is not going to be tortured, just have his neck cleanly broke. As he looks at a world where the man who sentenced him to death called him "my son", and few know him by name--Lorenzo--he can only look at a mob of strangers and see the new leadership walk out --his granddaughter now part of the inner royal circle as she stands thereon the courtly balcony with what appear to be the new King , Queen, and prince, Alicia at his side like royalty, never noticing Lorenzo as she smiled at the crowd and danced as his neck broke. But Lorenzo saw that she was doing all right for herself--that she knew how to "whore" through life. And that her days of abuse by men were over. Then he hears his name out of the crowd and, sweat filling his eyes with salt, just makes out the young face he'd "cared for", twisted and stark-raving mad, smiling broadly as she holds up a baby. He manages to give her a smile. I felt something was left out here as the baby should have confused him, made him think, oh, oh. And I felt a scene where he had to acknowledge he'd known her was in order , and should have been between all his dismissals of her as nuts while not really meeting her eyes, and this smile as if the sight of her (as she then was, out of her mind) pleased him . Only two times did it seem he cared about her--when he said "I do care about you" and when he said tersely that he'd never tell a mother that her daughter was a harlot. Nothing explained the kind of smile she evoked from him except if he had once loved that face while it smiled and to see it again was a present, a gift. It beat seeing her fighting for him, yelling no, getting pushed down,as he died--but her simpleton-manner, "everything's great now, I have a baby", would not have been enough to make me smile--I'd rather have seen her in her real mind, knowing what was going on , that I was about to die . But that out-of-it smile got him to smile as he watched the world be wrong about its need to murder him for being a heretic. In the end, children dance and sing around his body being dragged, head down , on a cart; the crazy girl joins them, picking up his hand and kissing it as Goya brings up the rear yelling "Inez!"
You don't want to talk about anything else after it's over, and it keeps popping up as you go about the next 6 or 8 hours, heavier fare than the things you are usually involved with. You keep thinking. Was he good to her? That smile, that was the one time, that she knew of, as she had no idea he'd talked to her baby , that it had grown up.But she thought he was her love. She'd kept a candle lit for him. The smile was a gift to her. He was ultimately, finally, good to her. But never enough--for his part in creating her crazed mind, a baby raised in an orphanage, etc.He never took on that guilt, unless in trying to make the harlot daughter go away.