La Lengua de las mariposas
review by Dan Lybarger, 25 August 2000

Like François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, Butterfly (La Lengua de las mariposas) is a story that, while told from a child’s point of view, is unflinching in its depiction of the more contemptible aspects of human nature. Set during the Spanish Civil War, Butterfly makes the human cost of fascism vividly real.

Curiously, director José Luis Cuerda and writer Rafael Azcona (working from the novel Que Me Quieres, Amor? by Manuel Rivas) don’t overload the film with gloom. Most of the handsomely photographed movie is filled with a sense of wonder that makes the conclusion even more devastating. Manuel Lozano plays Moncho, a small asthmatic boy who is frightened by the prospect of his first day at school. His condition makes him naturally wary of his peers, and the teacher, Don Gregorio (Fernando Fernán Gómez from The Grandfather) is a tall, intimidating old man. Unlike the other people in Moncho’s village, he speaks in a rarefied manner and seems like the sort of instructor who would beat a youngster into obedience. Worse, the old man may be something the town fears and distrusts intensely, an atheist. Moncho finds the experience so frightening that he wets himself as Don Gregorio introduces him to the class. The shock sends the lad running home.

Fortunately for him, Don Gregorio is as kind as he is mysterious. When his students misbehave, he calms them down with psychology instead of a rod. He even comes to Moncho’s home to apologize for scaring the boy. His enthusiasm for books and nature rubs off on his pupils, particularly Moncho. He takes the boys on insect hunts and provides emotional support that is sometimes missing at home.

Don Gregorio is one of several unusual but likable people who inhabit Moncho’s home. There are Moncho’s loving but bickering parents: Mom is devoutly Catholic and traditional, while Dad is staunchly behind the doomed Republic and changes it has brought about. They share the house with Moncho’s older brother, a sax player with a shortage of soul. There’s also a young man who has a tempestuous affair with a young woman who insists on making love as her dog Tarzan attacks him.

Directed by:
José Luis Cuerda

Fernando Fernán Gómez
Manuel Lozano
Uxía Blanco
Gonzalo M. Uriarte
Alexis de los Santos
Jesús Castejón
Guillermo Toledo
Elena Mar Fernández
Tamar Novas
Roberto Vidal

Written by:
Rafael Azcona
José Luis Cuerda







www.nitrateonline.com  Copyright © 1996-2005 by Nitrate Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.