El Jardin De Las Delicias (The Garden of Delights)
A film by Carlos Saura

This film was an early work of Saura's, made in 1970 that explores the fate of a paralyzed and near mute industrialist at the hands of his avaricious relatives. It is similar in style to Cria, but different in theme and method.While this film is not Saura at his best, its experimental style shows us, the director beginning to use his powerful acting methods and kaleidoscopic film sequences to tell a story. Scenes are cut into one another without transitions, and images from Spain's medieval past and fascist period are inserted, as Antonio struggles to regain his articulate self. The audience is not able to determine, first what is going through Antonio's mind, and second if he will ever recover. Contrarily, the audience knows from the start, the designs of his sometimes foolish, but always greedy relatives. I guess this is why so many critics at the time, saw it in a comedic mode. I most definitely saw nothing laughable in this sad story. It is really a story without an endpoint that explores the perverse desires of its players.

We also see Saura using cinema to give us a lesson in ethics. At its center is Antonio, the helpless invalid.

The actor José Luis Lopez Vasquez is magnificent as the afflicted, wealthy industrialist, that holds the key to the fortunes (financial and otherwise) of all his family members.There is his father, a patriarch that raised and cultivated him to run the family cement works. He surpassed his father's expectations and built the company into a prosperous construction works after which, he had an auto accident that left him paralyzed and partially mute. It also left the father and family without access to the sizable fortune locked in a Swiss bank account. The father is spearheading a series of staged plays to revive Antonio's memory. His wife, Luchy, is no less greedy than her father-in-law, but she longs for his contentment. She is the least devious of the wolfpack that are in effect, torturing Antonio. He is forced to relive memories some of which are painful. He is manipulated and examined like a specimen by his relatives. They are aware that what they're doing is cruel, but none can stop it, so great is their greed. This is precisely what Saura wants us to see. We must ask ourselves seeing the actions of his relatives: If I had a relative like Antonio impeding my access to great wealth, would I not do what they're doing to him? You might say: No! I couldn't be that cruel. But, what about all that money? Yeah, the money. Well, maybe? The devil on your shoulder says: It's a coupla million! Alright, alright I would! Yes, I would! After all, they aren't killing him. That's the kind of mental musing I went through, and perhaps so would you. Saura is telling us through this family that we WOULD carry out any and all manner of psychological ploys to have the money Antonio possesses. In so doing, he's making a statement about a host of human ills, not just avarice. How 'bout torture, evil and insensitivity to name a few. And his children, a rebellious son and doting but insincere daughter, neither really have his welfare in mind. Weaving the money-lusting relatives together is his aunt and fantasy lover. She is the principal actress, the family uses to jolt Antonio into sanity and make him remember whom he is and where their fabulous riches are.

Antonio seems childlike throughout the film. He is an infant rediscovering his world. At the conclusion he remains as he started, and the final sequence has to be seen as interpretative. I didn't enjoy or like it. See what you think.

Reviewed by Robleh Wais on 10/28/02

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