- (2006)Alatriste was the biggest box-office hit of 2006 in Spain. A spectacular epic starring Viggo Mortensen in the title role, this historical yarn followed Spain's decadence as an empire through the eyes of a melancholy 17th-century adventurer caught up in court intrigue, battles, and love affairs. It was directed by Agustín Díaz Yanes, who had started his career as a scriptwriter and had directed the character-centered thriller melodrama Nadie hablará de nosotras cuando hayamos muerto (No One Will Talk about Us When We Die) in 1995. In spite of his limited experience with the genre, Díaz Yanes managed to deal with complex technical issues and introduced an exquisite visual sense, helped by the Velázquez-inspired cinematography by Paco Femenia, which contrasted pools of dust-filled lights with deep shadows. The extensive supporting cast was a veritable who's-who of Spanish cinema, including Ariadna Gil, Elena Anaya, Javier Cámara, Juan Echanove, Eduard Fernández, Unax Ugalde, and Blanca Portillo: the well-known faces helped audiences to follow the intricate, sometimes obscure, plot.Alatriste was based on a series of five best-selling novels by Arturo Pérez Reverte, eventually condensed into a two-and-a-half-hour film. In many ways, as many reviewers pointed out, this was not a wise decision for those not acquainted with the originals. The attempt to include the highlights from the books to keep the fans happy made for a sense of fragmented narrative with characters turning up or disappearing unexpectedly, narrative threads being unresolved, and some plot twists not fully explained. But whatever the film lacked in terms of a smoothly flowing plot, it made up for in terms of extraordinary production values and images. With a budget of over 24 million Euro, Alatriste was the biggest production effort in Spanish cinema: with lavish battle scenes, sets, and costumes. As with Guillermo del Toro's El laberinto del fauno (Pan's Labyrinth) the following year and the earlier Abre los ojos (Open Your Eyes, Alejandro Amenábar, 1997), a recurring theme in the press was the film's Hollywood-like production values, and there were suggestions that technical maturity had finally been reached by the Spanish film industry.The film was treated as a cultural event by the media, receiving the kind of attention seldom devoted to a Spanish film: on one hand, it was promoted as a pertinent history lesson for young audiences (at a time when politicians were arguing about which version of the past should be taught at schools), but it was also hailed as the flagship of the Spanish film industry in a period of growth. Hard as it was to recoup the investment, by the end of the year, it had over 3 million admissions, and had earned over 16 million Euro.
Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. Alberto Mira. 2010.
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