Salvador (Puig Antich)

Salvador (Puig Antich)


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Salvador (Puig Antich), sadly marks another step into the netherworld of also-ran films for Catalan actor Daniel Brühl. Great in Good Bye Lenin! and The Edukators, he was hopelessly miscast in mish-mash thriller Cargo and his role here also seems too big for him.

This is, for the most part, not Brühl’s fault, since he is hampered by Lluís Arcarazo’s script, which seems to have been cut from the side of a pig and which, unaccountably, has picked up a Goya Award in Spain. But let’s start at the beginning. Brühl is the Salvador of the title - a Catalan anarchist who fought Franco’s dictatorship. Captured in a bloody shoot-out, which left him badly injured, he went on to be the last political prisoner in Spain to be executed by garrotte.

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I can tell you all this, since when we first meet Antich he is already in the pokey, which is one of the many reasons why this film fails to engage. The first portion is told with narrated voice-over by Salvador, recounting how he came to be a part of the Movimiento Ibérico de Liberación. The narrated extracts only serve to distance us from him, while director Manuel Huerga – whose TV directing roots are all too apparent – uses every uneccesary trick shot in the book to further alienate the audience. In fact, his camerawork is so overwrought it frequently resembles a pop video rather than a serious piece of cinema. Equally, there isn’t enough history here to round out his story, meaning those outside Spain will find it hard to get a handle on the politics of the situation.

It is also impossible to get a feel for who Salvador is, with the choppy, sub Dog Day Afternoon stylings leaving us with the impression of a youngster, who far from being a leader, was little more than a ladies man with wideboy tendencies, dressed up in political activism. Because Huerga doesn’t generate enough sympathy for Antich’s cause – which, frankly, should have been a simple task given what we know of the Franco regime – the second part of the film lacks emotional impact.

Where we should be caught up in the emotion of a man staring death in the face, we are, instead, marvelling at the sudden clunky switch from Seventies crime thriller posturings to run-of-the-mill prison melodrama.

You begin to wish for the end to come yourself as a string of reprieves are hinted at and withdrawn as Arcarazo makes a last-ditch attempt to drum up some sympathy. Brühl, finally finding something to latch onto – a friendship with a guard which lets him show Salvador’s human side – begins to hit his stride. But it’s all too little too late.

Ultimately, the gentle comedy Un Franco, 14 Pesetas, which is screening alongside Salvador as part of the Viva Festival has more to say about Franco’s Spain than this – and it isn’t even set in Spain for the most part! I’m sure there is a gripping biopic of Salvador Puig Antich to be told. This isn’t it.

Reviewed on: 14 Mar 2007
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Salvador (Puig Antich) packshot
Biopic of a Catalan anarchist.

Director: Manuel Huerga

Writer: Lluís Arcarazo, based on the book by Francesc Escribano

Starring: Daniel Brühl, Tristán Ulloa, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Joel Joan, Olalla Escribano, Carlota Olcina, Bea Segura, Andrea Ros, Celso Bugallo, Mercedes Sampietro

Year: 2006

Runtime: 134 minutes

Country: Spain, UK


Viva 2007

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