Lorca, Dalí and Buñuel brought to the silver screen
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Salvador Dalí was as surreal and enigmatic in his paintings as he was in his speaking. The Majorcan writer Baltasar Porcel once observed: 'When Salvador Dalí blurts out a bizarre paradox, a sparkle of amusing intelligence arises in his eyes. Mr Salvador plays to be Dalí'.
Little Ashes, the film where the director Paul Morrison explores the relationship of attraction, admiration and love between the Catalan painter (played by Robert Pattinson) and the Andalusian poet and playwright Federico García Lorca (Javier Bertrán), reveals the details of the disguise that the painter designed for himself.
Although the film doesn't resolve all the intrigues surrounding the eccentricities and disorders of the painter, it does show something of what made the great man tick. No Limits is the film's Spanish title – and a defining characteristic of Dali's outlandish genius.
Although the film explores one of Spain's most influential artistic relationships - the trio made up by Lorca, Dalí and the Aragonese filmmaker Luis Buñuel – it is the Catalan painter who is the axel on which the film revolves.
However, Javier Bertrán's interpretation as Lorca in Little Ashes deserves a special mention. He is probably the actor who best captures the passion, tenderness and charm of the writer before a camera. In one of the passages with real shots of that time, the viewer can’t help but wonder if it is the real or the fictional Lorca in the frame.
The poems by Lorca are recited in the film in its original language but, at the same time, dubbed in English. This way, one can feel the musicality of his verses and, at the same time, understand why he is one of Spain's most important poets.
The rugged character of Luis Buñuel (who, incidentally, is somewhat exaggerated in the movie) contrasts with the sensitivity of Lorca and the oddness of Dalí. The anarchist and the democrat clash often, with Dalí ostensibly above good and evil. This is a movie of contrasts in which the characters are like magnets in continuous rotation, attracting and repelling one another.
Although the film makes historical mistakes, such as referring to the dictator Franco when he was not yet known, it gives an idea of the environment around the intellectual elite gathered in Madrid from the 1920s to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.
Lorca was killed, in 1936 for defending freedom of speech, but Dalí said in the 1970s that Franco was the most important thing to him besides Gala, his lover and muse. But how did the extravagant painter get to this point?
Unfortunately, it is not really clear from this movie – perhaps the forthcoming biopic Dali & I, directed by Andrew Niccol and starring Al Pacino as the painter, will shed more light. A rival film, directed by Simon West and starring Antonio Banderas, has been blocked until further notice by the Gala-Salvador Dalí foundation.
Little Ashes is on show at Belfast's Queen's Film Theatre until June 25.