Eye For Film >> Movies >> Butterfly's Tongue (1999) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
There is a sting in the tail of this charming, sentimental tale of a shy eight-year-old asthmatic Spanish boy's rural education into the mysterious lives of grown ups.
First there is the teacher (Fernando Fernan-Gomez), whom he fears so much that he runs away on his first day because of what he suspects will happen.
In fact, the teacher is a gentle, sweet natured man who refuses bribes from rich parents and takes the class out into the woods to learn natural history.
With his new best friend, the publican's son, he discovers what boys and girls do together by watching a farm worker's tryst with a land owner's daughter. Meanwhile his teenage brother has joined a local band as saxophonist and fallen madly in love with the mute young Asiatic wife of a blacksmith in another village.
The year is 1936. Innocence and passion and the flowering of knowledge is about to be crushed by one of the bloodiest civil wars of the last century. This is the sting, which comes so unexpectedly, without warning, it feels unnatural. Certainly, the boy's response does.
Adapted by Rafael Azcona from three short stories by Manuel Rivas, the film seeps in nostalgia from an age beyond remembrance, when believing in God was political and illicit sex took place in the barn.
The young protagonist (Manuel Lozano) resembles the boy in Cinema Paradiso so closely that it cannot be a coincidence. Although rich in the tapestry of childhood, the film's rosy tints are never less than soft, which is why the ending feels out of character and more of a literary device.Reviewed on: 26 Mar 2001