Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A gay man and a political prisoner are together in a prison. The gay man narrates the stories of two fake movies and his own life.

  • Luis Molina and Valentin Arregui are cell mates in a South American prison. Luis, a trans individual, is found guilty of immoral behavior and Valentin is a political prisoner. To escape reality Luis invents romantic movies, while Valentin tries to keep his mind on the situation he's in. During the time they spend together, the two men come to understand and respect one another.

  • Valentin Arregui and Luis Molina are unlikely cell mates in a Latin American prison. Valentin, a journalist, is a political prisoner who was working for a leftist anti-government revolutionary group. While in prison, he is frequently tortured in order to cough up information on those with whom he is working. That includes the new prisoner in the cell across the block from his. Valentin has yet to provide the authorities with any useful information. Molina, a stereotypically gay window dresser, is imprisoned on morals charges: having homosexual sex with a minor. He states that he has no political affiliations. To pass the time, Molina recounts aloud story-lines from his favorite movies, usually those of a romantic nature. The current movie of which he is telling is a wartime romantic thriller, which in reality is a World War II Nazi propaganda film, about which he doesn't care as he focuses on the romance part of the story. Because of the reason for his imprisonment, Valentin doesn't much like that Molina is telling a story produced by a repressive regime, but gets caught up in Molina's story-telling regardless. The unlikely cell mates form an equally unlikely friendship based on their mutual support for each other. Molina later admits that he has fallen in love with Valentin. What Valentin does not know is that Molina has been co-opted by the prison warden and the secret police to befriend Valentin so that he can get information on and report back to them about the leftist group with which Valentin is working. Molina's reward is early parole. The question becomes on whose side is Molina really supporting if either.

  • A gay and a political prisoner are in a prison. Gay narrates the story of an imaginary movie to the other, in spite his bad interest. He narrates the stories of two different movies mixed with his own life story. The story narration soon becomes a medicine for their loneliness, sadness and pain.A gay and a political prisoner are in a prison. Gay narrates the story of an imaginary movie to the other, in spite his bad interest. He narrates the stories of two different movies mixed with his own life story. The story narration soon becomes a medicine for their loneliness, sadness and pain.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In a Latin American prison somewhere in Brazil, an effeminate window dresser named Luis Molina (William Hurt) recites the story of his favorite movie to his cellmate, Valentin Arregui (Raul Julia), a bold and austere political prisoner. Molina embellishes the romance to escape the brutality of prison life, describing a torrid World War II love affair between a French chanteuse, Leni Lamaison (Sonia Braga), and a German captain named Werner (Herson Capr). As Molina describes Leni's conflict between passion and conscience, Arregui protests that the film is Nazi propaganda. Molina's homosexuality, and his sentimental interpretation of fascist cinema, are repulsive to Arregui, but the two begin to develop an unlikely friendship. Arregui admits his concern that the warden has stopped his interrogation, and fears officials will go after his girl friend for intelligence. Molina reveals that he was imprisoned for seducing a minor (a little boy), and longs for a world in which he is free to love without persecution.

    One day, Molina is called to the warden (José Lewgoy), and reports back to Arregui that his mother is ill with a weak heart. He fears his transgression has caused her to suffer, and may precipitate her death. When the men are provided food trays with disproportionate servings, Arregui insists that Molina take the larger portion. As he reluctantly eats, Molina encourages his cellmate to write a letter to his girl friend, but Arregui does not wish to expose her to the government, and refuses to mention her name.

    Referring to the brutality of his captors, Arregui questions why they have kept him alive, and believes they are developing sinister new tactics to induce his confession. Impressed by Arregui's dedication to his girl friend, Molina cries about his failure to find love, and remembers a waiter with whom he was infatuated.

    One day, Molina becomes violently ill, and convalesces in the infirmary. When he returns to the cell, Arregui suffers the same symptoms and realizes the food has been poisoned. Molina insists on calling the guards for help, but Arregui protests, knowing that he will be drugged to reveal the identities of his fellow revolutionaries. In his delirium, Arregui utters the name "Marta," and Molina returns to narrating his favorite movie, hoping it will assuage his pain.

    As Arregui awakens, he soils himself with diarrhea, and Molina cleans the mess. Grateful for Molina's care, Arregui lets down his guard and allows him to read a letter from his girl friend, whom he now identifies as Lidia. However, Molina inquires about the mysterious Marta. Shocked by Molina's knowledge of her name, Arregui admits he is still entranced by his former lover, Marta (also Sonia Braga), even though she is from an upper-class family, and his association with the bourgeoisie makes him a hypocrite to the revolution. Marta asked him to leave the rebels, but his friends were being abducted, and he agreed to a mission in which he gave his passport to an elderly dissident, code-named "Dr. Americo." After the transaction, Arregui was arrested and tortured, but he did not succumb to the inquisition. He admits he does not want to die, and begs Molina to protect him.

    Sometime later, Molina is called back to meet with the warden and his henchman, Pedro (Milton Gonçalves), who have promised to reduce Molina's sentence if he spies on his cellmate. They demand to know the name of Arregui's girl friend, and the identity of the prison's new inmate, but Molina remains mum, pointing out that the captive's face has been concealed by a hood. Molina, who knew all along about the poisoned food, insists he is ignorant about Arregui's revolution, and is relieved to learn that his mother's health has improved. He arranges to bring groceries back to the cell, claiming the gift will help maintain the charade that he is being visited by his mother. Molina hopes the delicacies will restore Arregui's health.

    After the feast, Molina finishes telling the story of the movie, and Arregui hears the new prisoner's moans. Looking through the bars of their cell, he sees that the inmate's shroud has been removed, and identifies the captive as Dr. Americo, the man who received his passport. The next morning, Arregui is enraged to learn that Americo was killed, and lashes out at Molina. Later, Molina returns to the cell with more groceries, and Arregui apologizes.

    In another visit to the warden, Molina insists he is making progress, but continues to conceal the names Arregui provided. Hoping to secure his own emancipation, Molina argues that Arregui will reveal his secrets if he knows they will part ways, and the warden grants him parole in 24 hours.

    Back in the cell, Molina despairs his release, claiming that he will remain spiritually imprisoned in a society that castigates his sexual orientation. Arregui consoles his friend, and asks to hear the story of another movie. Molina narrates the cinematic tale of a woman (Sonia Braga in her third role) who is trapped on a desert island, entangled by a spider web that grows from her body. One day, a man washes ashore, and she nurses him back to life. Explaining that the heroine is anguished by desire, Molina admits his love for Arregui. The revolutionary wishes to express gratitude for Molina's compassion, and fulfills his longing to make love.

    The next day, Molina does not want to leave, but Arregui sees his liberation as an opportunity to communicate with the revolution, and asks him to deliver a telephone message. Molina refuses, and requests a parting token of tenderness that they did not share the night before: A kiss. Arregui begs Molina to stand up for himself in the outside world, and to never submit to degradation. Molina vows to make the call, and they kiss. As Molina bids his beloved farewell, Arregui whispers a telephone number and message in his ear.

    Molina returns home and visits his mother (Miriam Pires) who is happy to see him home. Over the next few days, Molina makes a tepid reentry into civilian life, unaware that he is being followed by Pedro, the warden's henchman. A few days later, Molina makes the phone call, and is ordered by the unseen person over the phone to meet the revolutionaries in person. He hesitantly agrees, despite the danger, and plans to disappear afterward. Molina clears his bank account, and asks a friend to deliver the package of cash to his mother.

    In a crowded city plaza, Molina heads to the meeting place and realizes he is being trailed by Pedro. As he approaches the revolutionaries' car, a young woman (Ana Maria Braga) introduces herself as Arregui's girl friend, Lidia. However, she sees Pedro and incorrectly suspects Molina of being an informant. Lidia shoots Molina in the chest. While the rebels speed away, Pedro and his men pull Molina into his vehicle and holds him at gunpoint, ordering him to reveal the telephone number, but Molina dies before he can say anything. Molina's dead body is unceremoniously dumped in a back alley trash heap.

    Back in prison, Arregui is tortured but he continues to refuse to talk. A medic takes pity and secretly injects him with a painkiller. As Arregui loses consciousness and seemingly dies, he is visited by Marta the Spider Woman. She guides him out of the prison, and leads him to the desert island in Molina's imaginary movie.

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