Friday, August 14, 2015


Alatriste Poster.jpg

During our recent vacation road trip we watched the 2006 Spanish film, Alastriste, starring Viggo Mortensen. If you are at all interested in the 17th century, especially the Spanish Golden Age or the Eighty Years War between Spain and the Dutch Republic, this is a must see movie. It has everything one needs in a swashbuckling tale: battles, sieges, bravery, duels, deceit, romance, honor, intrigue, interactions with the highest levels in society, and of course, death. The movie is in both Spanish and Portuguese (I don’t know if the Portugese is dubbed or what) with subtitles in English and Portugese.

Viggo Mortensen is great in the lead role as Capitaine Alatriste. Raised in Argentina, Mortensen is fluent in Spanish and does a creditable job with the language and his acting in the role is exceptional bringing just the right touch of poverty and soldierly arrogance so in keeping with Spain’s soldiers in the period. The casting over all is fantastic. The historical figures: King Phillipe IV, the Conde Olivares (the Spanish version of France’s Cardinal Richelieu), and the poet Quevedo all look exactly like their historical paintings, many done by the incomparable Velasquez, and Velazquez himself and his works are also featured in the film. The acting is consistently excellent with even minor characters perfectly fulfilling their roles. The costumes are authentically 17th century and better than the costumes in the vast majority of films set in the period. The street scenes in Spain are excellent and engaging, the taverns picturesque, and throughout the film there are a multitude of scenes that are so exquisitely framed and filmed that individually each could be the work of a master painter.

From a combat standpoint, the film starts with a tense, exciting raid typical of the sort of sorties common to the wars in Flanders. There are several excellent duels that are like a grittier version of the brawling fights in the 1973 Lester movie, The Three Musketeers – but without any of the slapstick. Fighting in Alatriste’s world is dangerous and deadly, is usually over quickly, and is definitely no laughing matter. There is a muddy, dirty look at the Siege of Breda including a claustrophic and uniquely realistic 17th century mine sortie. The end of the film even features something seldom seen in films, the push of pikes between one of the dreaded Spanish tercios and the elite French Guards.

This movie is based on the excellent El capitán Alatriste series by the Spanish author, Arturo Pérez-Reverte. The series, like the film, is in Spanish, but English translations are available for all but the most recent book. This series is definitely worth finding and reading for anyone interested in swashbucklers in general or the early 17th century in particular.

The movie is available for purchase from Amazon.

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