Goya's Ghosts


by Tuna

Goya's Ghosts (2006), AKA Los Fantasmas de Goya, takes place during 15 years in the life of the Spanish painter Francisco Goya. It was directed by Milos Forman, who helmed such noteworthy projects as Amadeus, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Man on the Moon, The People vs. Larry Flint, Valmont, Ragtime, Hair, etc.

This is the part where I give would normally a concise summary of the story. The only problem is that I just watched it, and am not sure what the story is. I am not the only reviewer with that problem. Goya has been turning out etching prints that contain imagery that the Holy Office (the Inquisition) finds potentially demonic, but a monk (Javier Bardem) convinces them that Goya is merely showing the evils in Spain, and is actually a proponent of the church. The monk also persuades the Office to give him control over the Inquisition to bring back the "old ways."  Bardem trains his henchmen to be especially wary of anyone reading French literature, and anyone who might be a Jew.

Goya, if you will excuse a trite saying, is fat, dumb and happy. Not only is he getting lucrative portrait and mural work from the church and the king and queen of Spain, but his etching prints are selling briskly, and he has a beautiful muse (Natalie Portman) in the person of a lovely young daughter of a wealthy merchant. Trouble arises when Inez (Portman) refuses pork in a public house, suggesting that she might be Jewish. She is summoned by the Inquisition, put to the question (tortured until she confesses), and left to rot in the dungeon, where she is raped and impregnated by Bardem. Her father decides to put Bardem to the question, and gets him to sign a confession that he is the illegitimate offspring of an ape and a monkey. Nice move, but he doesn't get his daughter back, although he does manage to disgrace Bardem.

15 years later, when the French invade Spain, Bardem shows up as a French prosecutor, accompanied by a wife and family. Inez is let out of the dungeon, and comes to Goya for help in finding her daughter - the result of Bardem's repeated rapes. The daughter, also played by Natalie Portman, is a hooker. It's Goya vs. Bardem until the British invade.

So, this does not seem to be a biopic of Goya, Inez, or the monk played by Bardem, and it's not a history of the inquisition since it shows only the tail end of that wonderful group.  I am not sure what exactly it is meant to be about, but is impressively mounted, and contains enough small themes to overcome the lack of a major one. I will grant that the first half of the film was more engaging than the last, which covered too much ground too quickly, and I would have liked to see someone find redemption, but do not regret the time spent watching it.




Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:



  • Natalie Portman shows buns and partial breasts while being molested by Bardem.
  • Portman's body double shows all in the torture scenes.
  • Unknowns also show breasts.


2 James Berardinelli (of 4 stars)
3 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
2 BBC (of 5 stars)
30 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
52 Metacritic.com (of 100)



Box Office Mojo. It was budgeted at $47 million for production, and the distribution/advertising costs are estimated around $30 million. It did nine million in its first five days, in 2400 theaters. (On the average, the studios get about 55% of box office receipts, the theater owners 45%.)



Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) plays King Carlos IV of Spain!



7.1 IMDB summary (of 10)
 Goya's Ghosts (2006)

It is available from RLDVDs.com on a Russian Superbit DVD which includes English, Russian and Spanish soundtracks and lots of extras. It is a Region-free PAL, and so will play on your computer.