On the basis of this potboiler and the ludicrous THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS (1993), one can make the assumption that the novels of Isabel Allende do not translate well to the screen. Instead of being swept away by a tide of passion, audiences are dragged down by posturing crusaders and their
caricatured military foes.
In 1973, a military junta ruled Chile with the power of martial law. Cocked in a see-no-evil environment of privilege, sheltered magazine editor Irene Beltran (Jennifer Connelly) enjoys the courtship of her dashing cousin-finance Gustavo (Camillo Gallardo), a career officer in the army. Irene's
insularity shatters after she hires a photographer, Francisco (Antonio Banderas), whose priestly brother Father Jose (Diego Wallraff) works for the human-rights underground.
Irene's magazine covers the story of a local living saint who disappears after meeting Francisco and Irene. Commanding officer Ramirez (Claudio Ciacci) scuttles rumors of miracles by killing the woman's brother. Irene's search for the vanished holy woman leads her to a disgruntled soldier, who
slips her a notebook cataloging the military's campaign of terror against the populace.
Francisco and Irene discover and publicly reveal a mass grave of government victims. Their rebel activities don't go unnoticed by spies tapping the residence of Father Jose's cardinal. To maintain the official policy of suppression, soldiers try to gun Irene down. When this assassination attempt
on his betrothed opens his eyes, Gustavo prepares a coup, but is apprehended, tortured, and executed before a firing squad. Gustavo dies without revealing Francisco's scheme to smuggle a disguised Irene out of her hospital, across the border, to exile in Spain. Fifteen years later, Francisco and
Irene return to a democratized Chile.
Although you can feel the filmmakers' desire to raise viewers' hackles about this dictatorship, OF LOVE AND SHADOWS is nothing but a lump of good intentions, full of breast-beating nobility and hollow-sounding dubbing. The dialogue, in thick Spanish accents to foster an ersatz South American
flavor, is delivered as if the cast were being fed their lines through hidden ear-mikes.
Even a masterful director would be hard-pressed to visualize Allende's supernatural-tinged material. How do you present mysticism in conventional melodrama without provoking the audience's sense of the absurd or distancing viewers from the central romance? Eventually, Chile's saddest hour becomes
nothing more than a plot-hook for two box office stars; it's political torture refashioned as colorful backdrop. One flinches as the lush music swells so pretty Banderas and prettier Connelly can kiss soulfully as totalitarians crush Chile underfoot. (Graphic violence, extreme profanity, extensivenudity, sexual situations, adult situations, substance abuse.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: On the basis of this potboiler and the ludicrous THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS (1993), one can make the assumption that the novels of Isabel Allende do not translate well to the screen. Instead of being swept away by a tide of passion, audiences are dragged dow… (more)