Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles (Salvador Simó, 2019)
When it comes to biographies, sometimes you have to wonder why they are even conceived in the first place. Productions like Finding Neverland or Tom of Finland are too timid and formal for the personalities they’re paying tribute to. What’s the point of telling J. M. Barrie’s life with a film that shows no sign of imagination? Why would someone make a traditional and unsexy movie about Tom of Finland?
Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles is another conventional homage to a director who was against conventionalism—the Spanish surrealist would have run away from literary devices, such as resorting to dreams to show a character’s torment or revealing some daddy issues to explain his behaviour—but at least Salvador Simó doesn’t show Buñuel as an untouchable genius but as a tormented brute who puts his art above all.
The Labyrinth of the Turtles gets us inside the making of the acclaimed short film Land Without Bread. The movie gives a very illustrative account of what lengths an artist will go to in order to finish his masterpiece. Buñuel shoots a donkey, throws a goat from a cliff and fakes a funeral to make his movie more impactful. Who would’ve thought he was such a sensationalist, a precursor of fake news or an early version of Tom Grunick, who conveniently musters up tears on the right cue?
Buñuel and his colleagues envisioned this documentary so they could help a region deeply immersed in poverty, but once they get there, they show more concern about the film’s budget than the townspeople.
The movie doesn’t condemn Buñuel for his actions but doesn’t try to justify him either, as this was never meant to be a hagiography, to begin with.
Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles
Original title: Buñuel en el laberinto de las tortugas
Directed by Salvador Simó | 2019 | Spain, Netherlands, Germany
Main cast: Jorge Usón, Fernando Ramos, Luis Enrique de Tomás, Cyril Corral