Directed by Francisco Rabal, starring: Francisco Rabal, Maribel Verdu, Jose Coronado and Eulalia Ramon.

Simultaneously exploring the life of Spain’s most eminent painter and one of the most turbulent chapters in the country’s history, Goya in Bordeaux is an ambitious work, written and directed by countryman Carlos Saura. Generally considered the father of modern painting, the drama of both Goya’s art and his life make him an ideal subject for depiction on-screen. Forced to leave Spain during the Inquisition, we meet the eighty-two year old in exile in Bordeaux towards the final days of his life. The narrative takes the form of flashbacks, narrated by Goya (Francisco Rabal) to the daughter at his deathbed. Cataloguing the bright days of his rise to court painter in the Spanish court and the intrigues that brought him there, his passionate affair with the stunningly beautiful Duchess of Alba (Maribel Verdu), and the darkness into which he retreated when struck deaf at the age of forty-six. Now on his deathbed in Bordeaux, Goya is revisited by the Duchess; appearing to him as a dark shadow, she calls him to return to her in death.

Never truly differentiating between fantasy and reality, the film takes on a dream-like character by free inter-cutting of the narrative through time and the visual trickery provided by translucent screens and innovative lighting techniques. Helped in no small way by the cinematography of three-time Oscar winner Vittorio Storaro (The Last Emperor, Reds and Apocalypse Now), Goya in Bordeaux renders a remarkable period and a remarkable man in a manner that is as striking on screen as the great painter’s brushstrokes on canvas.

Nickie Byrne