The Liberator  (2013) – Spanish-Venezuelan

An abbreviated biopic on the life of Simón Bolívar (1783 –1830), this is good drama but unreliable history. Print legends at the beginning state that Bolívar rode by horse for over 70,000 miles in his quest to unify South America into a single powerful nation. He covered more territory than Alexander the Great. Clearly reaching for popular appeal, this film gives attention to the hero’s love life, looking for opportunities for nude scenes. He was born in Venezuela and given an aristocratic education in Mexico and Spain. He met a beautiful young woman in Spain and brought her back to Venezuela as his wife. She died soon after of yellow fever. This tragedy set him on the path to independence from his past. Soon he was leading battles in countries around the northwest corner of South America, helping them to achieve liberty from Spain. The psychology of independence being what it is, Bolivar would never achieve his goal of unifying these fractious nations. If Wikipedia is to be trusted for accuracy, this movie totally misrepresents the manner of Bolívar’s death at the age of 46.

Love in the Time of Cholera  (2007) – Columbia

A very fine film has been made from the novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1985). The lead actor, Javier Bardem, received an Oscar for his work in another film in this same year, No Country for Old Men.  If it were up to me, I would have named him for this film.  Though the filmmakers experienced the usual difficulties in translating a sweeping novel to the screen, the story line is elegantly simple.  An old man dies in his yard and after the funeral another old man approaches the widow and announces that he has waited for over fifty years to propose marriage to her.  She flies into a rage and orders him from her home.  There is now a two-hour flashback in which we see the Columbian Romeo and Juliet struggling against the disproval of the girl’s ambitious father.  The girl eventually decides their love is an illusion and marries a doctor.  The young man weeps in his mother’s arms like Achilles, and then goes off to make his way in the world.  He never relinquishes his love for the one he has lost.  After years of obscurity he becomes the president of a steamboat line, sending boats along the rivers into the interior.  Finally the film comes full circle and Florentino presses his suit to the still lovely Fermina in a series of love letters.  She relents and goes with him on a journey up the river.  In the end, Florentino orders the captain to anchor the boat in the middle of the river so the two lovers may float there for eternity.

The novel was set Cartagena, Columbia. Marquez was familiar with the city.  The film was shot in English with an international cast. It covers the years 1880 to 1930.  Despite the ongoing struggle for independence, the culture is strongly Spanish and male dominant. The critics were not kind to this film, finding it turgid and not worthy of the novel. Wikipedia says that Marquez was pleased with this first Hollywood filming of one of his works. Perhaps there was a disconnect between Hollywood standards and the genius of Marquez for representing the realities of his homeland.

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