This masterpiece of black humor—one of the great Spanish films—threads a scathing critique of Franco-era values through a macabre farce about an undertaker who marries an executioner’s daughter and reluctantly takes over her father’s job so the family can keep their government-allotted apartment.
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Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead. After Franco died, Spain abolished the death penalty. Like most civilized countries. This movie is about how people discard their values in trade for material comforts.
I am new to Berlanga, and that is a shame. In Spain he is apparently as highly-esteemed as Buñuel. The Executioner is an example of populist audacity at a humbling level. The production of such a movie under the auspices of a notoriously self-conscious dictatorship bespeaks a level of sophistication in the packaging of this "light comedy" that in itself deserves no end of commendation. Bruising but weirdly sweet.
The well-organized organic state recruits its subjects to participate in the dispensation of its punishments and rewards, the lie of the abstraction's efficiency as inescapable as the mess of its reality here inside the machinery. Plenty of material for farce, then, and I suspect if I were Spanish (and, perhaps, of a certain age) El Verdugo would have twisted me into even tighter knots of death-masked hilarity.
A brilliantly humorous film concerning a man's hapless rise from undertaker to executioner; capturing the many little disappointments one must endure if one chooses to conform to societal mores while existing on this earthball.
****1/2 Possibly *****, even (to be determined on future viewings to which I look forward). Two compositions stand out and exemplify: In each, our protagonist recedes into a well-composed frame, the first time to brilliantly funny effect, the second with an impact as harrowing as it is graphically/symmetrically pleasing.
Incredible film! Berlanga was a genius, and probably, the one who better understood how to shoot Azcona's scripts. Funny, irreverent, dealing with a controversial subject matter... Wonderful, wonderful film.