Waddington captures show biz 400 years ago in Lope
by Gabriele Barcaro
11/09/2010 - A “genius of naturalness” to his "rival" Cervantes; a symbol (with fellow Spaniards Tirso de Molina and Calderón de la Barca) of Baroque theatre; admired posthumously – by Goethe first of all – for his extraordinary prolific output, poet, writer, playwright Lope de Vega (1562-1635) was one of the leading figures of Spanish "siglo de oro" (“golden era”). Whose adventurous life – “so full it seems invented,” says the director – by Andrucha Waddington a Brazilian filmmaker who came to a Madrid to make Lope [trailer].
It’s not exactly the same old period biopic, however. Because behind the accurate period reconstruction (kudos to Ricardo della Rosa’s pictorial photography), there’s more than one reference to show business today, which isn’t much different from that of four centuries ago. Seeing as how Lope (played by Alberto Ammann of Cell 211 [trailer, film focus]), like many of his filmmaking “heirs,” had to struggle significantly to get across his ideas of theatre, violating the Aristotelian canon and blending tragedy and comedy.
The risk with this kind of film is always the same: how to depict a genius without ending up overshadowed by comparison? Yet while Waddington delivers just some of the literary value to Lope, who claimed that "life is a stage" – he gets into debt to hold a regal funeral for his mother and tells his brother, "We are what people believe we are” – the film is solid in its formal and narrative approach. And pares down to under two hours (an admirable running time in this era of never-ending blockbusters) an entire career, sword action and the romance of a love triangle (with Leonor Watling and Pilar López de Ayala).
The film’s breeziness and theatrics convinced both the festivals of Venice and Toronto to include Lope in their Official Selection although less so for its artistic qualities, the biopic will be remembered for its impact on its country’s film industry. Waddington’s film is 30% produced by Telefonica, the Spanish telecommunications giant, which is back to investing in cinema for the first time since 2004.
Co-produced by Antena 3 Films, El Toro Picture and Ikiru Films with Brazil’s Conspiraçao Filmes, in partnership with Warner Bros (which is handling Latin American distribution), Lope was released on 309 Spanish screens on September 3 by Hispano Foxfilm, and has grossed €1.8m so far. Wild Bunch sells the film internationally.
(Translated from Italian)