A muddled attempt at greatness. This film seems to suffer from box tickers syndrome. US actors to ensure box office success: check. Spanish talent to give local colour & authenticity: check. An end result that’s a garbled mish-mash of accents that’s really hard to follow? Sadly: check.
The film is visually lovely and has an interesting angle, namely that Goya witnessed – and painted – a particularly turbulent phase in Spanish history (and there have been a few). However, this aspect is badly underplayed and the (rather horrible – sorry, film artist whoever you are) pastiches used of real Goya paintings are unintentionally hilarious.
Goya himself is, of necessity, something of a background figure – he is the everyman observer, which is what makes him able to carry on documenting the changing world around him without falling foul of the Inquisition or its successors. His growing deafness through the course of the film is quite imaginatively expressed on the soundtrack, but possibly at the expense of keeping the line of the narrative clear.
If Skarsgard’s Goya seems rather downplayed as a character, the same can’t really be said for Natalie Portman’s ‘look at me I’m a proper actress, I can look ugly and everything’ turn. She’s a decent enough actress in the right vehicle, but I don’t think she carries this (dual) role well. Javier Bardem has some wonderful depth as the duplicitous Lorenzo and, for my money, was the only thing that kept the film watchable to the end.