Friday, January 22, 2010

Kiss Of The Spider Woman - Escape and the Parameters of Significance

Nominated with four Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director (Hector Babenco), Best Adapted Screenplay (Leonard Schrader), and Best Actor (William Hurt), the film “Kiss of the Spider Woman” is a very thought provoking film by South American filmmaker Hector Babenco. The film’s screenplay was adapted from Manuel Puig’s 1976 novel of the same name. William Hurt’s excellent portrayal of a homosexual convict earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1985. Hurt and other members of the film cast and crew also got nominated in several award-giving bodies. “Kiss of the Spider Woman” deals with issues of homosexuality; escapism; and the divide between fantasy and reality; and the impacts of rightist regimes on individuals and the struggle against such regimes. The lastly mentioned issue tackled in the film makes “Kiss of the Spider Woman” a highly political film.

Valentin Arregui and Luis Molina, the main characters in the film, share a prison cell. Arregui is imprisoned for his links with a leftist group, while Molina is imprisoned for having sex with a minor boy. Molina recounts a Nazi propaganda film to help Arregui and himself escape the realities of being imprisoned. As the story progresses, the two prisoners learned to respect and understand each other to the point of becoming mutual – a turning point which shaped the concluding events of the story.

Told in the point of view of the two main characters and devising a multilinear narrative, the movie shows the viewer the parallelisms between the Nazi propaganda film Molina shares to Arregui and their own experiences as it unfold in the film. Both the Nazi propaganda film and Arregui’s struggle (to which Molina became involved) explore the fight against rightist regimes. Though the French resistance and the leftist revolutionaries of Brazil do not share the same political ideology behind their causes, what they have in common is being anti-rightist/fascist. In the film, occurrences that are typical in rightist/fascist regimes like political imprisonment and torture are discussed. Another parallelism between the Nazi propaganda film and the two main characters’ experiences is the failure of oppositionists against rightist/fascist regimes, and traitorship against the anti-rightists. In the “movie in a movie”, Leni Lamaison and her friend Michelle were killed by their French resistance comrades due to their personal actions that are against the interests of their allies (Michelle is impregnated by a German soldier while Leni fell in love with a Nazi counter-intelligence chief). On the other hand, it may be implied that Molina was killed by the leftists he are trying to help in the belief that they are betrayed by him and that these leftists found out that Molina is being followed by the operatives on his way to the meeting.

It is unclear whether or not the film espouses and advocates a particular political ideology. What is certain is that both the “movie in a movie” and the whole film itself are anti-rightist in nature. One thing that can help the viewer judge the film whether or not it advocates a particular political ideology is the screenplay. The screenplay is adapted from the novel of the same name by Manuel Puig. He is an independent socialist. To add, in an article by Judy Stone, Puig said:

“At the same time, the book is very much about the Argentina of 1973. There was ideological repression and social repression. I wanted to put those things together. The rightist government was suspicious of any leftist ideology and the leftists were puritanical in the sexual area. The repression was expressed in different ways. What I mainly wanted to talk about was the possibility of people changing.”

From what Puig said, I think that he is very much sympathetic to the leftist cause. It must be noted that the suspicion on leftist ideology by the rightist government is clearly shown in the film. It must also be noted that Puig’s independent socialist personality is reflected in his statement above as well as in the film. This stems from the fact that the leftist Arregui is indifferent towards Molina for most parts of the film. Therefore, it may be safely concluded that the film is left-oriented while also advocating respect for homosexuality.

The film is allegorical in a way. The character of Luis Molina is the embodiment of fantasy while Valentin Arregui’s character is the personification of reality. Some of the two characters’ dialogues in the film symbolize the debate between facing ugly truths people experience and employing escapism – avoiding facing real life situations people encounter.

The political content in the film is conveyed through Arregui’s recounting of events before his imprisonment, the two main characters’ experiences inside their shared prison cell, and the Nazi propaganda film Molina is recounting to Arregui. Molina’s transition from being apathetic to sympathetic to the causes of the leftist revolutionaries can be seen as a symbolism of the possibility of changing people’s belief system. Other elements of the mise-en-scene such as the music and costume design are commendable. Featured music and costumes worn by the actors in the film are very much reflective of the times in which the scenes are set.

On a personal standpoint, I say that the film “Kiss of the Spider Woman” was a moderately effective medium of political socialization. While it has delved to the issue left-right dichotomy, the film did not discuss the matter deeply. The film is also not that clear on the issue whether or not support movements against rightist regimes. It is left to the individual viewer’s understanding of the story on whether or not the film advocates such action. On the other hand, the film also has its merits. It succeeded in informing the viewer of the harsh realities that political prisoners experience. Plus, the story and well-conceived and the actors played their parts excellently.

References: Bordwell, David & Thompson, Kristin. 2004. Film Art: An Introduction, 7th Edition. Boston, MA, USA: McGraw Hill Stone, Judy, 1985.

Manuel Puig Dreams in Technicolor”. American Film, at, accessed 21 January 2010.


A 1985 Brazilian-American drama film, the Kiss of the Spiderwoman was made during a time where the issues it presented were very sensitive to the public, giving it paramount popularity and importance the time it was screened. Directed by Argentine-born Brazilian director Hector Babenco and adapted by Leon Schrader from the celebrated novel of the same title by Manuel Puig, embodies themes of human dignity and compassion surviving in a society where it denies it (Kipp, 2008). The movie was made during a time where gay liberation was at its height, considering that the film was made in the pre-Aids era when gay, feminist and radical politics intersected. The political context of the film also sat at a time where there were forced disappearances and political arrests and imprisonment for acts of communist revolutions mainly in South America. Confirmation to its popularity in the public and the industry of moviemaking were its garnered awards. It acquired the Academy Award for Best Actor for William Hurt, including best actor awards from BAFTA Awards, and the 1985 Cannes film festival. The film was awarded the inaugural Golden Space Needle award from the Seattle International Film Festival. Not to mention its nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay in the Academy Awards. It also won in 1993 one of the Top Tony Awards in as best musical and best screenplay. The characters of Molina (William Hurt), a homosexual window dresser who is very fond of glamorous movies and Valentine (Raul Julia), an alpha male, die-hard Marxist revolutionary, shared a prison cell, stories and experiences and eventually something special that changed both of them. They pass the time by Molina recounting to Valentine one of his favorite films, a romantic wartime movie, in great detail where Molina embroiders the characters and scenes to distract Valentine form the harsh realities of imprisonment , torture and loneliness. At the latter part, it becomes clear that Valentine is being poisoned by the warden, and Molina was tasked to extract information from him. He was promised freedom if he provides them with information regarding the communist activities of Valentine. The twist of the story occurred when Molina fell in love with Valentine and refuses to poison him and extract information anymore, it didn’t matter if he gets out of prison or not, but seeks to find meaning in his life through Valentine. However, Molina was freed by the police in the hope that he will lead them to the revolutionary group of Valentine. True enough, Molina decided to make a telephone call to the cadres of Valentine and decided to meet them, the police followed suit resulting in gun battle and the death of Molina. Meanwhile in prison, Valentine, back from a torture session lying in the infirmary escapes in the most dramatic way with the woman he loves. He escaped all the pain and loneliness in the only way he knows and possible for him, an escape which is death.

Offered in the point of view of the two characters, the movie depicted how people treat what they perceive as outcasts of the society. We cannot deny the stereotypical presentation of the film as it presented a gay window dresser who molested a boy

and was put to prison. The character of Molina became an effective conveyor of how people treat gays in particular and how society persecutes them in general. In the point of view of Valentine, he was portrayed stereotypically as a leftist-journalist, who was associated with the communist revolution, with all those manly features only a cadre could posses. Valentine’s character is the ideal portrayal of how our society treats political subversives and our loathing of differing political ideas that are presented to us. These social outcasts therefore are put to prison just to reform them and correct their differences with the hope of blending with the society.

The film highlights the differences in the world and how they can co exist and eventually relate. It is a brilliant study of worlds in collision. The black and white codes of straight vs. gay, masculine vs. feminine, reality vs. fantasy, and power vs. submission erode until nothing is left but myriad shades of gray (Klemm, 2009). In the film, we can identify these collisions in the characters and what they portray. At first, there was a really rigid conflict between the two, in terms of personal emotions, relationships and desires. Not to mention the political ideology and activism that was also a highlighted theme in the movie. The movie offered two very different characters, one who is an avid fan of escapist fantasies and the other, a die-hard communist who disregards pleasure and romance. However, they made a connection through their shared experiences in the prison cell and their toleration of each other’s differences. They transformed each other in such a profound way in that they found meaning in each other. Valentine succumbed to his emotional and physical desires to Molina, and learned how to express them. Molina meanwhile, struggled to find meaning in his life and decided to search for it through joining the revolutionary struggle presented to him by Valentine.

The film did not bother to hide its allegories but presented it in another layer of narrative which is a movie in the movie itself. The film tried to present to the viewers that the boundaries of fantasy and reality can be bridged and that we can escape the harshness of reality if we really want to. The other layer of narrative in the film provided both of the characters a way to escape the prison cell and dwell to their memories and desires. In the latter part of the film, another allegory although revolving around this concept was also presented by Molina. It was the spider woman and her coveted kiss. The spider woman being trapped in her own web is symbolic of us being trapped in what we are in now. Being trapped in our reality. The kiss connotes liberation from this trap in that we can freely dwell in reality and fantasies providing a bridge between the two and ultimately provide meaning in our lives.

The film is a very effective medium in presenting the political content of the many relevant issues that are being presented in the film. Most import

antly, the film was considered as somewhat arresting when it presented and explored concepts of gender roles and answers questions of what should a woman be, what one should look like. The character of Molina, who considers herself a woman is a massive leap for gay liberation, as it disputed the criticisms of the society to homosexuals. On the other hand, the film also presented a gender role which was centered in the cha

racter of Valentine. The film explored how the society expects a man to act, especially in the time where masculinity was depicted to suppress emotions and desires.The author of the film was very effective in presenting these gender roles because he was once persecuted of being a homosexual during his boyhood in Argentina. When asked of what people should expect of the film, he replied:

"I wanted to

explore the basic dynamics of human behavior and

show that sometimes a person becomes trapped in a role when there are

possibilities of being many other things."

These gender roles were razed when the two characters of the film eventually broke the norms of what society expects them to be, sealed profoundly with the magic of the kiss.



Czarina XD said...

Where can a person’s significance be derived from? Is it from living with the harsh realities of life? Or is it from taking a few steps back to a world where one can fully detach himself away from the societal order?

Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), directed by Hector Babenco, is first and foremost a film that can be used to analyze the degree of one’s perceived significance based on respective beliefs, ideologies and associations. Primarily, the film surfaced the existence of the different spheres where a person can find himself in. Valentin Arregui considers himself a political prisoner, imprisoned due to his involvement with a leftist group. He believed that his eyes had been opened to the cruel exploitation of the Brazilian government, and had decided to stand against it. He is constantly affected by his affiliation to his revolutionary group that when he met Molina, he captured and trapped Molina to his own web of political conviction. Luis Molina, on the other hand, had only his mother to worry about after he was sent to prison. He lived a life of mimicry and fantasy, and had clung to his dreams of finding love amidst of how he is. The movie showed us that one can have a life with interconnected realms of interests that ultimately dictates the decisions they make and their perception of a significant life. Such theme is highlighted by the movie Molina told Valentin. Molina saw the movie as a conquest of the love between two individuals exacerbated by the Nazi rule; Valentin saw it as a struggle by opposing forces in a war to annihilate and undermine the other. Their own perception of a single movie is a product of the difference in the way their web of beliefs are woven and laced.

But as the film’s writer, Manuel Puig, had tried to bring about, people can change. They are dynamic for they are constantly influenced by their priorities and interests. But one;s possibility to change completely depends on their openness to do so. The changes in the film can be first comprehended through the way Molina accepted the task given to him by the authorities. He was to spy on Valentin and try to extract information regarding the revolutionary group he was part of. This particular decision by Molina was not given much espousal on the film but one thing’s clear: it is an act that is a result of the manner by which his web of priorities is woven, just like everyone else. Whether he did that to appease the authorities, or to quicken the grant of his parole, or simply to be close to Valentin, is an entirely different matter. Ultimately, the changes within the two main characters in this film are manifestations of the shifting of their priorities, and with that came alterations of their respective perceptions of a significant life. What the film portrayed is that a person’s own perception of a significant life is what eventually matters, rather than what other people think of how your life can be significant. Thus, the kiss is a symbolic precursor of the widening of their openness to other beliefs of Valentin and Molina. Their ‘openness’ and their all new perceived significance materialized through Molina’s acceptance of Valentin’s request and when Valentin finally succumbed to his fantasies. The Spider Woman in this story is consequently the opportunity by which a person is given to rearrange his set of priorities and values in life.


remegio said...

The Kiss of the Spiderwoman was indeed again a movie filled with juxtapositions and parallelisms. The movie was situated in a Latin American prison cell which led us to the first contrast presented in the film, the idea of captivity and the futile idea of escape. Both main characters, Valentin and Luis were both in a prison but the prisons that they were in differ in context. Arguably both of them are experiencing the physical manifestations of a prison cell but Luis seems not to dread about being inside the cell. In contrary, Luis in his case was locked in his self created cage of fantasy. Thus a situation where in one is trapped in the beauty and bliss and fantasy while the other is incarcerated in the agonies and pains of reality is conjured.

Going back to the title of the film, The Kiss of the Spiderwoman, the kiss was a representation of Luis’ liberation from the web he weaved that eventually trapped himself. Moreover it was also a sign on the part of Valentin that he would be emancipated from the torments of reality which would be realized at the end of the film. On this event, I think that the film asserts that we should not live in a fantastical world and we should not also just live and die in the anguish and misery of reality. It was utterly projected that we should live in the combination of reality and fantasy that living in just one of them would be a worthless life. The proportion however was failed to be identified by the movie.

The theme that the movie presented or at least what I have been able to witness was that of imprisonment and freedom. There were two main political issues the movie tried to convey, first was that of the propagation of leftist leaning ideology and the second issue was that of homosexuality which was also concerned with gender roles and stereotyping. In this regard if the movie would be used to propagate left leaning ideologies, it would no doubt be a futile effort. The film failed to delve deeper and present sufficiently matters concerning the leftist revolutions thus socialization with this topic through this film would not conceptualize. On the other hand regarding the issue of homosexuality the plot regarding this matter was also no better in promoting the eradication of stereotypes regarding gender roles. It can also be noted that there was a significant diversion from the book since in the movie Luis was projected to be effeminate not just feminine as the book portrays him.

The acting was indeed great and excellent however it was not enough to off-set the weaknesses and the deficiencies of the film as a whole. There was also an existence of a movie inside the movie which was said to be a Nazi propaganda. However the sepia toned movie did not do a great job and was rather irrelevant and disjointed and did not add to the merits of the film. Considering that the film was simply the two of them in their bleak prison cell, the unbelievability of their evolving relationship is vital to the film’s infectivity. This was what made the moment of denouement all the more weak and pathetic. Thus the film in general would be a weak tool for political socialization.

katwinny said...

Fantasy mirrors the reality or reality mirrors fantasy? The ‘Kiss of the Spiderwoman’ is a great movie that deals with the division of fantasy and reality. Reality was symbolized by Valentin Arregui and his constant struggles with the authorities. Fantasy was embodied by Luis Molina and his narration of the movie that he once saw. The combination of both of these gave the film its core and the many issues that it deals with. Through the interaction of the two characters, the issues of political struggles of the leftist groups, homosexuality and the politics inside the prison walls were brought up.

Political struggles of the leftist groups is one issue that really struck me while watching the film. Government authorities seek to stop their ideological propagation by torturing or even killing the members of these groups. The ideological conflict was also evident in the “movie inside the movie”, as narrated by Luis Molina. Molina loved the movie because of the romance between Leni and the Nazi chief which eventually what happened to him in the prison cell. Leni and Molina both became romantically-involved with the men then their support for the men’s ideological position came after- which led to the death of the two. For me, this tells that in a world where liberal democracy is the leading ideology, we tend to judge negatively those who are leftist. But like the characters in the film, it sometimes takes to fully understand someone to eventually understand their political stands.

As what the kiss of the spiderwoman symbolizes, Arregui freed himself from the harshness of reality while Molina stepped out of the fantasies that he built. We should not be trapped in both the realities and fantasies that we build but it takes to have a balance of these two to survive and maintain our identities.

In the case of Molina, he mirrored his fantasies and got the same fate of Leni. With Arregui, his reality of struggles and hardships ended with his death and the fantasy of freedom from them.


lenggaleng said...


Directed by Hector Babenco in 1985, “Kiss of the Spider Woman” is a story about Luis Molina, a homosexual, and Valentin Arregui, a political activist, who happen to be cellmates. Though they have different personalities, views, and beliefs, their interaction in the prison paved the way to a formation of a special friendship. All in all, “Kiss of the Spider Woman is a story of sex, politics, and obsessive love of movies- under an oppressive right-wing regime”.

As usual, there are different themes that can be found in the movie. I must say that friendship, escapism, loyalty and love are the evident themes found in this movie. One can see how friendship developed between Molina and Arregui, the escape of both prisoners from reality through fantasy, loyalty to one’s political affiliation and a friend, and of course, Molina’s true love for Arregui.

Furthermore, another theme that I think is not that evident in the film is opposition or specifically, binary opposition. I can see that there are a lot of ‘opposites’ in the movie, such as reality vs. fantasy, leftist vs. rightist, man vs. woman, and personal cause vs. noble cause. In the first place, the two main characters have different and opposite personalities. Luis Molina is a happy-go-lucky person who likes to fantasize while Valentin Arregui is a serious person who always faces reality. One can also see that there is the very evident struggle between the leftists and the rightists, as the Brazilian police, which obviously are under the right-wing regime, are doing all that they can to track Arregui’s revolutionary group, which obviously are the leftist ones. Moreover, there’s Luis Molina being imprisoned for immoral behavior, which is a personal cause, and on the other hand, Valentin Arregui being imprisoned for resisting the regime, which is a noble cause.

Now looking at the political aspect of the film, I must say that the struggle between the both ends of the political spectrum is not the only thing political in this film. Since the theme of the film that I am focusing on is opposition, I think that the concept of politics as resolving conflict through compromise and consensus can be applied in here. One can see that though Molina and Arregui have conflicting views and beliefs, they still became friends. They may have disagreements about things, but they resort to compromises and consensus rather than violence. An example of this is when Arregui would compromise to Molina’s fantasies. Arregui does not really like Molina’s storytelling about this certain movie that he have watched, but eventually, he learned to not to think of his personal views and instead, just let Molina talk about his fantasies. In addition, there was also this instance when Molina and Arregui argued about their prison food. Arregui insisted on giving to Molina the plate with the larger serving and Molina, knowing that the food with the larger serving has poison and is really intended for Arregui, gave in to their ‘fight’ and accepted the plate. This goes to show that even if Molina had his own reasons for wanting the plate with the smaller serving of food, he compromised with what Arregui wanted just to end their ‘fight’.

lenggaleng said...


In the end, one could see that the conflicts shown in the “Kiss of the Spider Woman” were still resolved, except perhaps with the leftist vs. rightist conflict. We see that Molina started to see things Arregui’s way and on the other hand, Arregui also started to see things Molina’s way. I would also like to note that with the man vs. woman conflict, as referring to Arregui and Molina’s argument about being a man and a woman, I see that this conflict was resolved through Molina himself. He proved that a man can be a woman, in a way that man can be sensitive and ‘soft’ sometimes, and the other way around. Furthermore, as it was pointed out in class that the ‘kiss’ served as the connection between Molina and Arregui, I would like to see their ‘kiss’ before Molina went out of the prison, not only just as a connection between the two, but as a seal of their consensus, thus resolving their differences.



denisefrancisco said...


Things happen for a reason.

This is what most of us would say most often than not whenever reality strikes. But the problem that lies in this perspective is the fact that there may be times when we find it hard to differentiate reality from fantasy. Defining reality and fantasy is definitely easy. You can clearly explain to someone what makes a situation a reality or not in terms of what they mean. In the simplest sense, reality means something that is actually taking place, while a fantasy is something that is far from happening. But what makes it challenging is the way we evaluate situations. We have the ability to put subjective meanings to what is happening around us. For example, what seems to be a reality to one person may be a fantasy to the other, and vice versa. Just like in the case of Molina, he views his imprisonment as a fantasy where he makes use of stories through Nazi propaganda films. This what keeps him sane while paying for the crime of being accused for child abuse. In fact, I could see that Molina tries not to think of his imprisonment as a punishment, but as a means of fulfilling his personal dreams and desires. It was his way of escaping reality and putting himself in a situation where he could at least be happy and direct his life the way he wants it to be. For him, imprisonment has given him a sense of reality of his true personality, where there were no inhibitions or rules that would limit him from acting the way he wants to. On the other hand, Valentin Arregui sees imprisonment as a slap on his face, a reality that he does not deserve. He does not believe in Molina’s idea of escaping from it. It was as if imagining yourself in a fantasy where you could be happy is just a waste of time. He was more focused on what was actually happening, and finding ways to change what was destined for him. Unlike Molina, his true escape would be his release from prison and joining his group of leftist protestors in advancing their advocacies.

The interplay between their personalities is an example of how one can see life through the eyes of the other. Molina’s happy go lucky personality has in fact made a big impact on Arregui. His rigid personality was moved through Molina’s constant “nagging” and intention to make him escape even just for a while, without any limitations that would hinder him from the happiness that he truly deserves. On the other hand, Valentin was able to move Molina by changing his point of view in life. I must say that Molina’s personality of being too self-centered, selfish and aloof of the political advocacies and ideologies of other people was definitely changed. He became more conscious of the way other people think, to the point of dying for his good friend.

denisefrancisco said...


The kiss can signify various meanings. It may show the transition point from living a life of fantasy to waking up to reality, or the other way around. Nevertheless, it symbolizes a redemption from being caught in your personal and self-centered bubble and trying to open yourself up to the rest of the world. For me, the kiss may be seen in different ways. It can be an escape from reality to fantasy, fantasy to reality, and good to bad and bad to good. Nevertheless, despite various and changing significance that the kiss could bring, it definitely is life-changing. It’s as if telling us that not all kisses bring good things. It all depends on how you see it yourself. A kiss could be a liberating thing, while another kiss could get you entangled in your own web of desires and mishaps. And with your ability to see your experiences according to the way you want them to be, many things can really happen to you. Seeing life through fantasy or reality can bring different things. It’s just a matter of how you want to see your life. Neither fantasy nor reality is perfect. In the end, what matter is what makes you happy, provided that no one gets hurt.

Ina_Partosa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Part I

The interest of Manuel Puig in escapism, as evident in most of his novels, may be viewed as a critic of the prevailing order in Argentina in late 20th century (in accordance to the base-superstructure relationship of art and its social milieu discussed elsewhere). His Pubis Angelical, for instance, is construed as a challenge to the passive female identity, “a set of received ideas about femininity” from which the female main character struggles to escape. The Kiss of the Spider Woman (1976 as a novel, 1985 as a film) has this type of theme. It is a flight, not so much from reality itself, but from web of imposed social standards and the stigma appropriated to those who subvert.

The prison cell as the setting places the characters outside the confines of social norms; it represents the entanglement that must be prevailed over. At the same time, however, it also reveals the historical context of the novel. March 1967, in Argentina, marked the seizure of power by a military junta, after which they launched a campaign against left-wing “counterculture” activists, union members, and journalists resulting to 30,000 deaths and 11,000 disappearances, later known as los desaparecidos. Puig himself was on the run during the period, while writing The Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Related to this, the film disputes Peronism, the prevailing ideology during that time in Argentina, espoused by almost every movement. With this in view, extracting the ideological stance of Puig, and therefore the film, from the Nazi propaganda and the apparent stance of Valentin leads to confusion. As a critic of the ideology, Puig reveals the contradictory manifestations of Peronism in Argentina. It actually spanned the whole ideological spectrum, acquiring the complexity which the film attempted to represent.

By this time, authorial ideology (or agency, as oppose to the film being just a reflection of the prevailing social order) is apparent in the film. This is further seen in what could be interpreted as the representation of Puig’s personality and ideology in the film: being a homosexual and a leading critic of Isabel Peron’s, successor of Argentina’s dictator Juan Peron, ultra-rightist policies. He was considered opponent of the regime that Isabel Peron intervened such that he would not receive any royalty for the film adoption of his 1969 novel Heartbreak Tango.


Anonymous said...

Part II

Puig would later speak about popular social models and “authoritative sexual codes” as restrictions to human freedom. This is precisely his point in The Kiss of the Spider. It depicts how prescribed customs and normative categories of thought shape and inhibit human experience, focusing on “codified and regulated behaviour...inscribed in individual subjects.” In particular, the film confronts two taboos in Argentine society during that time: homosexuality as a social practice and revolution as a political activity.

How Puig illustrated his point can be seen in how he developed his two main characters. He initially typifies them in one manner, which in themselves as subversive to the social norms, and then inscribes different personas in the characters in the latter part. Molina, as a homosexual, is initially portrayed as apolitical, not concerned with her condition in terms of access to social/political resources. Further, she was initially tasked with extracting crucial information from Valentin, which she did. As the story developed, however, it can be said that through her narration of movies, she was trying to transcend from the deeply-rooted homophobia, the Latino tradition of machismo prevailing in the Argentine society. She transformed into a different person, engaging in a task that is beyond her self. Arregui, on the other hand, was portrayed as a macho political activist; more concerned with the public good that personal satisfaction. He loathed the presence of Molina at first but eventually succumbed to her story-telling (escape). He diverted from the expectations of the viewers from a macho character.

By the end of the film, we can observe a transformation, even an exchange of the characters, of Molina and Arregui. The film therefore suggests an escape from impositions of roles, not only in terms of gender, but of social expectations as a whole. Louis Althusser calls these as ideological state apparatuses. Ultimately, however, these are also fields of struggle.


Nons said...


“Kiss of the Spiderwoman” is a remarkable 1985 film that portrays the incarceration of two people in a Brazilian prison and how they cope with this circumstance. Luis Molina (William Hurt) is a homosexual who was imprisoned because of having sex with a minor while Valentin Arregui (Raul Julia) is a political prisoner who was imprisoned because of his connections with the left. What was really captivating in this film is how it shows the battle with reality and fantasy and how it shows this battle through a multi-linear narrative. Molina is the epitome of living in a fantasy to cope up with his imprisonment—he reminds himself and narrates to Arregui his favorite film which coincidentally is a Nazi propaganda film. Arregui, on the other hand, is the epitome of staying in the reality, no matter how harsh it is. He keeps reminding himself of the struggle that the people experiences because of the rightist government. Throughout the film, we see Arregui constantly being contemptuous of Molina’s favorite film, saying that it was just a propaganda film by the Nazi who was responsible for the death of a million and more Jews. Later on the film, we see a change in Arregui and instead of being scornful of the film, he relies on it to escape the pain he is suffering under the poison that the prison administration is feeding him. Molina, later on as well, was revealed to be a tool of the warden and his staff to get information out of Arregui. We now see him being pulled into the reality of life where his fantasies cannot save him from betraying the person he has grown to love.

As the film unwinds, we see Arregui succumbing to his fantasies of being with his true love (as signified by his escaping with the Spiderwoman, another layer in the multi-linear narrative) which we can interpret as his death while Molina was killed by the leftist during a pursuit by the police, possibly because of the information that Arregui has given him and a possible detriment to the movement. Throughout all of this, we see how reality and fantasy aids both Arregui and Molina escape the harshness of life, which unfortunately lead to their deaths.

Here we see an echoing parallelism between the battle of reality and fantasy in the life that our nation leads now. If one opens the television and tunes in to any of the local stations, we see our television filled with teleseryes, game shows and other forms of entertainment. Public service shows such as news programs, documentaries, etc. are being delegated to the late night spots or really early spots where it doesn’t reach most of the people tuning in to TV. This is usually because it is not what the people want nor demand, and in the advertising world, these are the kind of shows that do not sell. Shows that are only meant to entertain and not inform the people with current events, etc. are the ones that are shown by the stations. Even the news programs that are usually shown in the 6:00-7:00 pm time slot are more entertainment than news. From this, we could see that more and more people are escaping into their fantasies. Rather than watch boring and distressing news that talks about corruption in the government, government debt, etc., people would watch teleseryes, game shows, etc. that make them happy and give them a fantasy where they can escape him. Even the movies that are being shown are form of escapism into another reality/fantasy. Films that deal with the harsh realities of life like that of the Kiss of the Spiderwoman (though this could be considered mainstream) are usually in limited release and would not even be known in the country had they not won some international award.

Nons said...


But staying in the reality could also result in jaded outlook in life, where one sees no hope at all for the country because of all the things that he has seen. The person loses hope and would rather give up than fight in the sick reality which he thinks has no cure at all.

Both fantasy and reality has their pros and cons. But staying in one extreme of either is not what is needed to achieve what we want. What we need here is to actually strive for a balance between reality and fantasy. In the film, we saw the extremes of both staying so much into reality and giving in to the fantasy. It didn’t really discuss what could be done to achieve both worlds, and that is something we need to get what we need and survive in this world.


Kristine Camia said...

When can we say that a movie is political or non-political? Are there qualities of the story that we need to see in a film before it can be political to us? And can a film intended to be political be political to everyone?

The film, ‘The Kiss of the Spiderwoman’ by Hector Babenco can help us answer these questions (or at least, can help us try). Based on the novel of the Argentine writer Manuel Puig, the film dwells on the relationship of prisoners Luis Molina and Valentin Arregui. On one hand, Molina is a prisoner of his own fantasy world. A world he created to avoid and escape the reality that sees him as nobody. In his own world, he is somebody, a girl that everyone respect and adore. On the other hand, Valentin is a prisoner of a harsh and cruel reality that he chose to face. He is an educated man and can be somebody but he chose to fight for his beliefs and in a way, be a prisoner of these beliefs.

In one look, we can say that this film is a political film- a film that talks about social injustice, gender stereotypes and the conflict between political ideologies In the movie we have seen prisoners that are being maltreated and the people’s basic needs that the government fail to provide. It also showed us the discriminations that homosexuals like Molina experienced due to gender stereotypes. And lastly, we had a glimpse of the conflict between the government and leftist movement. We saw how a leftist live his life inside and outside a prison cell.

But despite all these, I believe the movie is not political. This film is not made to influence the audience’s political belief. It is not made to show the shortcomings of the government or of the current status quo and advocate the leftist ideas and beliefs because if the film really wants to do this, then the focus of the film should have been in these shortcomings. Aside from this, the film did not focus on the effects of gender stereotypes to show its political implications not just to homosexuals but to almost all people. It also did not focus on the struggle of the leftist movement too well so as to discourage people from patronizing these beliefs. There are so many things that the directors and writer could have focused on to make this a good political film but instead they chose to focus on the human aspect of the film.

The movie focused on the relationship of two men that came from different backgrounds and belief - Molina, a homosexual that is trapped in his own web of fantasy and Valentin, a man chained in his chosen harsh reality. By highlighting this relationship, the film was able to show us how difficult and sometimes, tiring the search for your life’s meaning can be. Valentin was lucky to find it in his fight against the oppressors. But Molina was not that fortunate. He is aware of the walls he built to get away from the reality but still he search for key to be free. Because like Valentin, he too wants to be a part of the reality he despised but the only way he can do it is to find a reason, a meaning of his existence. And when he found it, he gladly accepted its consequence and died knowing he lived a short but meaningful life.

This is how I see the film. This also how I determine if a film is political or not. This is not a political film for me but it can political to you. We have different interpretations of the things we see, feel or hear in a movie. And it is entirely up to us how to interpret the message(s) it wants to communicate.

kristia said...

What are the indicators of a meaningful life? Is it a life lived in service of other people or is it a life focused on one’s personal happiness?

The search for identity and meaning can be considered as one of the themes in the film “The Kiss of the Spiderwoman”. In the film, we are presented with two prisoners who are so different from each other – one is Luis Molina who was a homosexual imprisoned because of having molested a young boy while Valentin Arregui was a political prisoner. In here we can see someone whose focus was on personal happiness while the other one’s goal in life was to help other people out. The question that can be asked then is, who is the one who is living a more meaningful life?

Molina was in constant search for a reason for his being, for a purpose in the world. At the end of the film, he eventually tried to help Arregui by contacting Arregui’s comrades when he was sent out of prison even though he was fully aware of the risks that would be involved. Can this be considered as the writer’s way of showing that a life lived for other people is indeed more important than a life lived in the pursuit of personal happiness? More importantly, does this imply that the public life is more significant than the personal life?

However, what happened to Arregui was the opposite. When he died at the end of the film, he died while imagining his loved one. In a way, this can be considered as the writer’s way of showing that Arregui still values his personal life. Although in the earlier parts of the film, he sacrificed his personal life because of his commitment to his cause, in the last scene, he focused on finding happiness with his loved one. This can then confuse the audience on what the film really advocates, the public or the personal life?

Another theme of the film is the idea of fantasy vs. reality. Molina was the perfect example of someone who was trying to live in a fantasy world in order to escape the harsh situation that he was in. He spent his time retelling one of his favourite movies in an attempt to distract himself and his cellmate. Arregui, on the other hand, was the epitome of someone who was focused on facing the harsh realities of life. While in prison, he was constantly lecturing Molina on how the rightist regimes are causing harm to the public. However, it was evident that there was a change in the perceptions of the two characters. Arregui eventually appreciated the narrative of Molina and he even entered a fantasy world with his loved one. In contrast, Molina was faced with the harsh realities of life when he was killed when he was attempting to do a favour for Arregui.

Again, the film does not imply whether the writer is an advocate of the importance of fantasy or of reality. But then again, that can probably be considered as the beauty of the film. The film allows a person to make his own judgement, to choose whether he will prioritize the personal or the public life or, the idea of fantasy or of reality. What is definite in the film though, is that a person has the freedom to choose for himself, and that is what the kiss of the spiderwoman represents. The spiderwoman was trapped in a web which she weaved herself but she was eventually able to escape. When the spiderwoman kissed Arregui, he was also eventually freed from all the harshness of life that he had faced and he became happy with his loved one. What the film implies is that at the end of the day, a person still has the freedom to choose how he will live his life and how he will prioritize things.

tinborja said...

“It’s a gay film…” were the first thoughts that rushed through my mind upon seeing the first scenes of the movie, Kiss of the Spiderwoman. Expecting it was something akin to Brokeback Mountain set in prison with its hidden layers of bromance and gay sexuality exploration, I could not have been more mistaken.

Kiss of the Spiderwoman, has proven to be groundbreaking in that it is the first independent movie to receive the top four Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Director. Following the complex relationship between two radically different men with opposing views of life, the movie has been another play between the public and private sphere overlap and fantasy-reality mash. Creating a story of sex, love, politics, and obsessive love of movies set under an oppressive right-winged regime, the movie is far from being just a gay film.

Kiss of the Spider Woman focuses on the theme of the conflict between personal emotions, relationships, and desires versus political idealism and activism. Such theme was seen in the portrayal of the two main characters- Valentin and Molina: Valentin being the picture of everything that is public- a man who chose a revolutionary path to political idealism disregarding pleasure, romance, and fantasy along the way; and Molina being the picture of everything that is private obsessed with the escapist fantasies provided by the movies. Thus, the theme being a conflict between the public and the private also showed how the public and the private can interact to create change just as Valentin’s and Molina’s interaction has caused them to directly or indirectly transform one another.

Given the, yet again, overlap between the public and the private, the fantasy and the reality, how can the film be framed to be a more effective convenor of political message or political socialization? In the first place, is the film initially serving as a tool for political message to its audience? If so, what message does it forward? Gender? Prison power relations? Homosexuality? Political activism? Rightist or leftist ideology? Indeed, for a film in which one of the characters has a strong public political backstory, it would appear that Kiss of the Spider Woman, is surprisingly apolitical. For instance, even if Valentin is being tortured and brutalized by another regime for his ideals, the movie is careful to keep things at the surface level such that no specific country or government is identified. As such, it would appear that the film is about relationships and how one views life –whether it be publicly or privately.

Breaking the usual traditions of film-making, the movie is an example of a movie within a movie such that the film is layers upon layers of meanings and symbolisms as Molina’s movies would reflect the reality of the events transgressing throughout the film. Indeed, what could ideally or more easily be seen as a movie that conveys a political message, public in its very nature, might be a misconception of the nature of the whole movie- for as much as Kiss of the Spider Woman conveys the relevance and value of the rightist or leftist ideology or of the importance of Gender or what have-nots, the movie is more a tale of an individual’s choice, a choice directed by the interaction by that which is directly different and opposed to you just as the interaction between Molina and Valentin has caused them to be directed to a world that is directly opposite and different to that which they were used to. Thus, Valentin allowed Molina’s fantasies to engulf him, serving as his escape while Molina stepped into the brutality of Valentin’s reality giving meaning to what he would tag as his mediocre existence.

Ina_Partosa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ina_Partosa said...

'...what this world offers the struggle.’
-Internet Movie Data Base *

In this life, men are born with different coping mechanisms when it comes to dealing with the harshness of reality that we call life. Some men opt to escape and immerse themselves into their self-created fantasy of a world while others choose to stay behind and battle on. One can never tell which method is right or wrong because it really depends on the person’s preferences. This is what the film “The Kiss Of the Spider Woman” tried to convey.

The 1985 film that was based on Manuel Puig’s novel of the same title (Spanish: El Beso de la Mujer AraƱa) dealt with men’s constant battle between reality and fantasy. The two characters, Molina and Arregui represented two ends of the spectrum, each with their own reasons why their side is better than the other. As the story progressed, we can see the gradual change in each of the two characters as both influenced the other. Molina, who represented escapist fantasy, eventually learned to “spin the spider web that he has kept to himself for the longest time and interweave it with others” and Arregui who represented harsh reality found himself pining away in his own fantasy symbolized by his death and reunion with Marta.

The film tried to show the contrast between fantasy and reality so strongly that the viewers cannot help but be captivated with the plot as Molina relates the story of his life through the film. Although set in a very small prison cell, the characters in the movie were able to explore the wonders of humanity and the imperfections that each person possesses through the narrated stories that tried to explain each character’s personality.

The imagery of the film was quite convincing. The use of the “movie within a movie” tactics made it even more effective in conveying the message because it exemplified the central theme through the juxtaposition of reality (i.e., the prison cell) and fantasy (i.e., black-and-white movie). Moreover, the movie was able to show what Molina really felt through the use of Leni and the Spider Woman. He was indeed a woman trapped in the body of a man, bound by society and his own restraints. The spider woman represented Molina being trapped in his own web of fantasies and the former’s escape was Molina’s redemption from the strings that stopped him from discovering a greater sense of purpose in life, which perhaps was the joining in the resistance outside. The softening of Arregui’s resolve on the other hand, was a product of his interaction with Molina. He was able to see the relevance of leaving the real world behind at some time and immersing himself to a self-made reality where all struggles do not exist and happiness is the only known emotion.

The film moves in a very slow pace, carefully sending the message to the viewers that the answer is not really choosing one over the other but learning to strike a balance between the two and knowing when to use which depending on the situation presented. Too much of each option may have harmful effects. Too much of reality may make you a cynic and hopeless that may lead to your destruction while too much of fantasy may eventually lead you to helplessness.



Daben said...

Behind bars, everyone feels so desperate to feel the normality of life, to feel free. However, each person has his/her own way to do it. This movie, Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), by Hector Babenco tickles the audience’s curiosity by using subtle signs that will let the audience use their imagination to its full capacity while enjoying the romance and comedy of Valentin and Molina. I consider this movie beautifully done because it was able to include serious issues and mask it into a light and enjoyable watching experience.

Among the many issues that the movie is trying to surface up is the issue of homosexuality. It is because the main character, Molina, is an out-gay. Molina consistently along the movie states that he is gay. Gay by his definition is a woman trapped inside a man’s body, just like the classical definition of homosexual gay. Molina was trying to fight the stereotype of homosexual gays from the society, portrayed by Valentin. Molina was asserting to Valentin that even though he is gay, he is still human; sometimes, even a better man than any other man could ever be.

Another issue traversed by the movie is the conflict between the extremist and the government in Brazil. This primarily includes the brutal treatment to the political prisoners. The harsh ways used by the Brazilian government to find the cadres of extremist groups depicted in the movie will leave someone thinking whether or not any action is indeed justifiable in a war. Physical brutality, mental torture and food poisoning are the illustrated ways to make a prisoner talk in the movie which is definitely inhumane. This brutal treatment led to the desperation of Valentin and in the end, his death.

The most important issue examined in the movie is the fantasy-reality dichotomy. The way it is so different to each other and the way it affects its followers. Molina during the course of the movie was represented as a hardcore idealist. His way of escape in the troublesome environment of the prison is his fantasies about the movie he had watched. He dreamt that he was the leading lady and that she feels the romance and the bliss of true love in the eyes of a woman. On the other hand, Valentin is the direct opposite being the extreme realist; he lives in the present alone and is being consumed by concurring events. He is traumatized by what the government is doing to the extremist and is mentally tortured by his own ideas. This led him into trusting no one, being on-guard every time and narrow-mindedness.

No matter how beautifully done the movie was, for me, it is still not good enough as a perpetrator of political views and ideas. It is because it was not able to substantiate the arguments of any sides of the issues it has been presenting. Therefore, it is demonstrating problems and giving the audience a hard time deciding how to solve the problems because the information is not enough. Other comments about the movie said that it is better that way to leave the people thinking than feeding them exactly the answers to problem. I agree on this matter but the movie did not even give arguments so that the audience can judge the matter intellectually, unlike the movie The Matrix (1999) by Andy and Lana Wachowski where the answer to the problem was not given to leave people thinking but it justified the sides of the argument well so that everyone can decide for themselves. My final judgement of the movie is that it is indeed a soundly done movie but it is not good enough as an idea perpetrator.

Mendoza, Aldrick

louie.lisbog said...

Can we only find true happiness in a world full of fantasies? ... The movie “A Kiss of a Spider Woman” is a story between two prison cell mates, Molina and Valentin, as they both explore the world of fantasy and reality in searching for their true identity and happiness.

But this movie really is not about human fantasies or dreams, this movie exposed such harsh realities that happened in South America several decades ago. There was a time that military juntas were able to rule South America. This period in the history of South America is really a difficult time for its people. Democracy was never to be found which made its ruling government abuse their power in order retain and maintain their control in their respective states.

During this time, media was controlled by the government, there were no elections and most importantly, there were lots of political killings and imprisonment that happened during this era. Student leaders, political oppositions, members of the media, and many others were each by each hunted by the government in order to stop them from fighting against the government. This was done b the government in order to further strengthen their control in the government.

In the movie, we can see the experiences of Valentin, and eventually Molina, as they participate and get involved in the movement against their ruling government. It was shown in the movie how members of these opposition groups were imprisoned, tortured and eventually killed by the police or the military. “A Kiss of a Spider Woman” gives us the picture how freedom was oppressed during those times in South America.

Democracy is a political regime that perpetuates the principles of freedom and liberty. But in the movie, democracy is not visible and authoritarian rule reigns. When this happens, individual rights are oppressed and usually being stripped from the society and the lives of the people depends on what the government tells them what to do. Disobeying the government is a very huge crime and battling the government usually cost one’s life.

In the end of the movie, after being released from prison, Molina decided to help Valentin to give his message to their movement. At first he was hesitant to do this, but eventually he decided to do it not only for Valentin but also for himself. He wanted to do something for himself in order to find his true identity, his own niche in this world.

This movie gave us the message that we should fight for our own rights and happiness. Molina knows that helping Valentin is very risky and would cost him their both lives, but he didn’t care. He did it because he knows that it will be a great help for him, Valentin, the movement, and mostly the society if he will do the task given to him by Valentin. Molina stood up for himself and his own rights ignoring what kind of society he was living in. This movie showed us the relevance of democracy and how we should fight for it. This movie exposed us from what an authoritarian rule is, a regime filled with oppression and control by the government. We should not let any kind of this regime persists in our society, we should value our each individual rights because it is a gift that we should be happy for.

Kathrine said...

Kiss of the Spider Woman: Politically Relevant Film beneath a Superficially Escapist Facade

The Kiss of the Spider Woman is a politically relevant one, especially showing the themes of political activism and apathy, political oppression and gender stereotyping. In conveying its message to the audience, it uses a multi-layered approach by layering gender stereotyping issues with political oppression and overall layering these with the central issue of political activism and apathy. Consequently, the film employs an interesting approach of parallelism. Aside from the story of the two leads where the audience sees the realities of the oppressive regime and the state of the prisoners in their cells, there exist another story – the movie within a movie. This movie within a movie, on the other hand, symbolizes the escape of one of the leads- Molina. With this form of escapism, the audience, like Valentin, is then drawn to the film, thereby symbolically representing an escape from the brutalities of the story depicted in the film. The use of this kind of escape gives the movie a more realistic feel. It conveys a connection to the audience through using the wonders of the movies and television entertainment as an escape from the realities of life that burden us. Like Molina, an ordinary person also uses the movies and the television as diversions to the sad realities that life brings. With the playful use of these approaches, the film easily connects to the audience thereby conveying its message and various symbolisms to us.

Setting aside the multi-layering and the parallelisms of the film, the Kiss of the Spider Woman primarily is a film that has political significance. It foremost shows the battle between political activism and apathy through the differing viewpoints of Valentin and Molina. While Valentin espouses political activism, opening up your eyes to the brutalities of a repressive regime; Molina, on the other hand, depicts the image of an apathetic citizen, choosing to be ignorant of the violence of the regime, choosing to not act upon political issues, and choosing himself over the great cause of helping his country. To explicitly open up the political activism of the audience, the film shows the political oppression faced by those who oppose a repressive regime. Moreover, the film shows the brutality experienced by political prisoners, the manipulation of those in power inside the walls of the penitentiary, and the violence brought about by the fight towards political freedom. On a more subtle note, the film touches on the issue of gender stereotyping wherein a woman, symbolized by Molina in the film, is boxed as an emotional, crybaby, and weak person, whereas Valentin who symbolizes the male group is boxed as the strong and tough one. Superficially, the film is an escape from the brutal realities of politics. It provides a diversion from the various crimes, political scandals, and political violence brought about by repressive regimes and by political leaders whose power went beyond their heads.

Looking back on the various themes, the approaches and the allegory of the film, Kiss of the Spider Woman is indeed a politically relevant film that still holds true in our present times. The issues of political oppression, gender stereotyping, political activism and apathy are apparent in our society. These issues should be structurally confronted by every one of us for a battle of a person or two will just be a worthless fight. However, before confronting these issues, we must first open up our eyes to the various happenings in our society and the nuances that are implicitly embedded in our political system.

migscardenas said...

Kiss of the Spider Woman is a Brazilian-American drama movie directed by Hector Babenco in 1995. It was based on a Manuel Puig novel with the same title. William Hurt who portrayed the role of a homosexual being imprisoned for molesting a minor, won anAcademy award for Best Actor. Aside from that the film was nominated for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.

The film primarily focused on the theme of escapism through a creation of a fantasy world. Molina, one of the lead characters, tried to avoid the harshness and brutality of life in prison by allowing himself to be caught up in a made-up world based on a film he once saw. He wished to escape the oppression and boredom of his prison cell. Throughout the film, he narrated movies to his cellmate Valentin as a means of entertainment for the both of them during their long hours of being imprisoned. Life may not be really favourable to many. This movie enables us to understand this side of that is unfair and unscrupulous that is why we cannot blame people if at times they become so comfortable living in an imagined world. By the end of the movie, it can be said that the difference between the two had definitely affected their perception of life. Valentin may be a person who experienced the worst in life because of his struggle against the rightest regime but he later on realized and appreciated Molina’s attempt in escaping reality.

Kiss of the Spider Woman presented a multi-layered story which touched a multitude of issues that until the present time remain relevant. For one, it used a non-conventional way of tackling these issues. The movies embedded in the film presented controversies which definitely helped in understanding the characters. Molina saw himself as a lady who was in a dilemma whether or not to fall in love with someone who is considered an enemy. He identified himself with the lead character in the movie he was retelling. He was used by the prison staff to lure Valentin so that the secrets of his movement would be told. In the process, Molina fell for Valentin making the situation complicated. In the end, he suffered the same fate as that of the character in his movie. He died while doing the favour his cellmate asked him when he was given parole.

What is the purpose of one’s life? This is a question is constantly being asked in the movie. Molina while in prison felt as if he hasn’t found his reason for living. One of Molina’s struggle was trying to find out this purpose. He compared it to the life of his mother. He thinks his mother has lived a complete life and has definitely served her purpose.

The film also tried to show the dynamics that happen in a prison system. Inmates, especially those who are considered traitors to the state experience unbearable torture just to squeeze information that can help in the fall of the movement. In that respect, the end justifies the means. Molina is a witness to the suffering of Valentin. He was deeply moved by the dedication of his cellmate in the cause his movement was fighting for. He realized he cannot betray a man who is ready to die for something that he believed in.

jolly said...


Hector Babenco’s 1985 film, The Kiss of the Spider Woman, is a captivating take on Manuel Puig's fourth and best-known novel, known in Spanish as El beso de la mujer arana. Set in the context of a South American city, it was formed during the time when political disappearances where at top during the 1970s. The film deals with contradicting forces in the form of value systems, as exemplified by its two main leads stuck in one prison cell: the political revolutionary that is Valentin Arregui (portrayed by Raul Julia) and the flamboyant homosexual escapist Luis Molina (played by William Hurt). At the center of the film is their relationship, and primarily through this, we see that their static identity, which was at one point seemingly adamant, has reversed as the plot develops.

One of the most compelling themes that the movie was able to forward was its concept of change. At the start of the movie, we see the ideas, characters and identities only at a shade of black and white: for instance, Arregui, the embodiment of masculinity, firmly rejected entertainment and frivolity for his Marxist beliefs; whereas his cellmate Molina is an effeminate gay clothes dresser who uses the fantasy and romance of his favorite movie to escape from the deeply-rooted homophobia of the Brazilian society. Being thrust in a cramped space during the bulk of the movie, however, has given the opportunity to set aside their differences and tolerate each other’s own identities. What used to be purely black and white has slowly turned into grey areas. We realize that neither man can be judged for their “right” or “wrong” actions, and that each individual is subject to transformations that could only come at the understanding of each one’s plight.

jolly said...


Ultimately, these two men embody two aspects of reacting to the volatile societal and political conditions at that time: it was either one resort to realism and join the armed rebellion over the rightist government, or one dream of an utopian world of glamorous women and handsome men whose love story becomes the focus instead of the society which they dwell in. One would later on realize that one could not purely devote themselves in one approach. One cannot be trapped in his own island, or to put it even more metaphorically, to be caught up in one’s own web, because inevitably, we are embedded in our social realities. Molina, especially, was able to learn this harsh fact through the struggle of his dealings with the government and his unforeseen infatuation for Arregui. The diametrically opposed social philosophies and identities of the two leads were then overturned on the final night of Molina in the cell, where they made love and became literally and figuratively became one. This was the turning point of the movie, for suddenly we see that it was now the dreamer Molina who agreed to help Arregui in his rebellious undertakings, whereas the revolutionary Arregui succumbed to his romantic and idealistic conception of paradise. It is disheartening to note that both men died in the process, raising questions of whether this transformation so can conclude fortunately.

Of course, the film was effectively able to further this theme by using cinematic techniques to stress its main point. The beauty of The Kiss of the Spiderwoman was that it gave clear symbolisms of the two contradicting forces played effectively by the main characters. Layers of meaning can be expounded through their exceptional use of the multi-linear narrative, as well as the metaphors embedded in settings and spaces. Truly, this film was successful in showing both the conflict as well as the consensus not just of the characters, but the ideologies and identities that they represent.