Having been fortunate to have gone through most of Vicente Aranda’s filmography, I can safely opine that this veteran director loves women and has great respect for their role in Spanish society. The ubiquitously named 1991 drama “Amantes” [Eng. Title: Lovers] is a typical example. I think it is one of his more deeper films which will be totally lost on anyone watching it casually. As I did when it was aired on TV many years ago. It is a film for mature adults, which I wasn’t. But some of the images are strong and unforgettable whether you understand the film or not.
Based on a true story, the film depicts a torrid love triangle that ended in murder during mid-fifties Spain. Paco is discharged from Army and moves in as a tenant of widow Luisa. He is lazy, ignorant, weak, and opportunistic – in sharp contrast to his apparent good looks which women are drawn to. He is engaged to pure-at-heart, virginal, and sincere Trini, who works hard as a housemaid to earn a living and save for a rainy day. His frustrations with her refusal for physical intimacy before marriage draws him to the older, experienced and still attractive Luisa, who’s been around the block a few times. Trini, aware of his relationship with his landlady, tries to win him back. But Luisa’s sexual prowess and seductive appeal completely clouds Paco’s sense of vision and reason, and his inability to distinguish the good things going for him is graphically illustrated for all to see.
Paco, Luisa, and Trini – extreme caricatures in themselves, are drawn with the purpose of showing the contrasting ways in which characters can pursue a common interest – which is essentially about trying to live happily ever after. The characterisation is equivalent to having a strong cup of coffee in order to stay awake – to understand if not appreciate why people behave the way they do. What makes this film special is the convincing portrayal of the characters by the main actors. Both, Victoria Abril who plays Luisa, and Maribel Verdú who plays Trini give exceptional award-winning performances, and this is also the only film to date that won Vicente Aranda a Goya. It obviously isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for the open-minded, definitely refreshing, and Recommended Viewing..!