Luis Buñuel – El AKA This Strange Passion (1953)


Francisco is rich, rather strict on principles, and still a bachelor. After meeting Gloria by accident, he is suddenly intent on her becoming his wife and courts her until she agrees to marry him. Francisco is a dedicated husband, but little by little his passion starts to exhibit disturbing traits. Nevertheless, Gloria meets with scepticism as she expresses her worries to their acquaintances.

In El, it is director Luis Bunuel’s contention that uncontrollable insanity can grow within even the most rational of men. Spanish aristocratic Arturo de Cordova, outwardly the picture of courtly charm, marries lovely Delia Garces, who is much younger than he. From the honeymoon onward, Cordova imagines that his bride’s former lover is spying on them. At first his jealousy manifests itself in short bursts of violence against phantom intruders. But the middle-aged groom’s lunacy blossoms, until he is prepared to literally sew his young bride up lest she be accessible to others. Bunuel alternates Cordova’s disintegration with his standard attacks upon Catholicism; the church can offer nothing to this unhappy man but empty homilies, leaving him no choice but to lie to himself that he is “cured”–knowing deep down that he never will be. Historian William K. Everson hit the nail on the head when he described El as “the most clinical dissection yet of a paranoic’s descent into total madness”. Another critic has succinctly described the protagonist as “an Othello with the hero as his own Iago.” El, which literally translates as “He”, has been released in some markets as This Strange Passion.

Subtitles:English, French

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