If you don’t know Spanish then I can practically guarantee that you will have to watch this film twice. If you do know Spanish you will still probably have to watch this twice. The reason is that this film moves at the pace of a 1940’s screwball comedy and the dialogue at the speed of His Girl Friday. Therefore, if you don’t know Spanish you will be trying to read subtitles faster than you can and need many pauses and playbacks. Now to the film.
The film is about a man named Plácido who has been hired to help with a campaign on Christmas Eve. The campaign consists of bringing in actors to auction off for money and then each family takes a a poor person home for dinner. While all this is going on Plácido needs to pay off a bank note that is due, but keeps having to go somewhere else or do something else.
What director Luis García Berlanga has done is to set up a classic example of Catholic charity and then show how the Spanish really are despite the propaganda. The best scene that illustrates this point is when one of the poor men starts dying. The family finds a doctor, who is actually just a dentist, and there isn’t anything he can do. However, the poor man at the dentist’s house is the neighbor of the dying man. He tells them that they should get in touch with his “wife”. Of course those quotes are there because they aren’t really married. Now the family doesn’t just have an old poor man dying in their home. They have an old poor man who has been living in sin dying in their home. They get a priest, but the old man doesn’t want to be married. So they trick him into saying yes, they marry them, he dies, and now it’s time to get rid of the body.
Funny, but dark stuff. I recommend it.