Opening 23 Nov 2006
Set in Spain, in 1792 the high council of the Catholic Church is considering whether to take action against an artist, Francisco Goya (Stellan Skarsgard) for his etchings which depict prostitution, sex abuse, witchcraft and satirical critiques of the clergy. Brother Lorenzo (Javier Bardem) suggests that the pictures illustrate current events and rather than punish the artist, the Church should return to the Inquisition to out Jews, witches and Protestants. The scene switches to Goya painting Ines (Natalie Portman), the lovely 16-year-old daughter of a rich merchant.
Later, Ines dines with friends in a tavern. She looks at a roasted piglet and refuses to eat it. Members of the Inquisition take note, assume she is in fact a Jew and request her presence for questioning. She appears voluntarily and is totally mystified as to why the Church is interested in what she ate for dinner and why she doesn’t like pork. Refusing to admit she is a Jew, they put her to The Question. While hanging naked from her wrists, she screams for her torturers to just tell her what the truth is so she can be set free, thus confessing to being a Jew. She is thrown in the dungeon where she is repeatedly raped by Lorenzo. Her father tries what he can to get her out, including bribing the Church. Through his contact with Goya, he invites Brother Lorenzo to dinner. Outraged that his innocent child has been put to The Question, he strings Brother Lorenzo by his wrists to the chandelier and in such pain, Lorenzo signs an absurd confession. Lorenzo’s subsequent attempts to free Ines fail, however, and when the confession comes to light, he is banished from the Church and flees to France. Twenty years pass and the paths of Goya, Lorenzo and Ines cross again with more tragic consequences.
Bardem is wickedly terrific as the evil monk. Although Brother Lorenzo’s story overwhelms that of Goya and his paintings, the little bit of history and horrific suffering give lurid background to his famous paintings. This is a rare film that is too short, which results in not enough character development or history but is nevertheless, an extraordinary blend of history and art. (Mary Nyiri)