Alatriste: Heroes and intrigue at the Spanish court
by Paolo Menzione
To understand what kind of film Augustin Diaz Yanes’ Alatriste [+see also:
film profile] is, in competition at the RomeFilmFest, one needs to know that it is based on a successful novel by Spanish author Arturo Perez Reverte (born in 1951), who began writing in the 1990s to satisfy a family wish. To fall asleep, his daughter wanted to hear stories on adventures, knights, art, love and regal intrigue.
Thus, the action-packed period film, set in Spain during the reign of Philip IV and court painter Velazquez, is practically a novelty for Spanish cinema, which, said the director, “does not have much of a tradition in this genre". The most expensive Spanish production to date had a budget of €24m, almost all of which have already been recouped – in the first three weeks alone in Spain, the film earned €16m and registered 3m admissions.
The strong international cast features US actor Viggo Mortensen, who speaks an almost perfect Spanish and is flanked by Edouardo Noriega, Ariadna Gil, Elene Anaya and Italy’s Enrico Lo Verso.
The time is the 17th century, during Spain’s conflict with Flanders, where the courageous soldier Alatriste (Mortensen) fights yet another senseless war, for nothing more than honour. His friend and comrade-in-arms Balboa, before dying after a fatal ambush by the Dutch, asks Alatriste to take care of his son Íñigo. Once back in Madrid, Alatriste finds a kingdom in runs, and court, that of Philip IV, ruled by deception and corruption and manipulated by Count Duque de Olivares. Returning to being a mercenary, Alatriste refuses to carry out a murderous order of the Holy Inquisition and from then on finds himself with enemies both in Madrid and in the cold lands of Flanders.
As Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, Mortensen is no newcomer to blockbusters yet was enthusiastic about his European experience: "I’m very proud of this film,” said the star. “Alatriste is a wonderful example of the great talent there is in Spain. Diaz Yanes made a classic film that will be remembered for a long time. It was an experience that enriched me".
Shot 60% in Andalusia, between Cadiz and Seville, then in and around Madrid, the film is having its European premiere at Rome, after an international premiere that took place last month at Toronto.
TF1 International (France) is handling international sales.
(Translated from Italian)
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