In 1965, a man named Matías is admitted to a psychiatric clinic after being found on the street “in the company of homosexuals and intoxicated by alcohol and drugs.” His papers indicate that he is 41 years old and Polish. He claims that his mother was an aristocrat. His arrival will shake up the institution and, in particular, the life of one of its doctors.
This is an adaptation of one of the most important novels of Argentine literary modernism, Roberto Arlt’s El juguete rabioso (1926). Similar in many ways to Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1917), this novel (and the film) chronicles a young man’s journey through a life of poverty on the margins of society in Buenos Aires among anarchists and gangsters during the first years of the 20th century. The novel is essential reading for an understanding of subsequent Argentine literature, yet it is little known outside of Argentina. In El beso de la mujer araña AKA Kiss of the Spider Woman (1976), Manuel Puig was very consciously drawing the whole conceit of the homosexual ‘traitor’/’lover’ and the political prisoner directly from this book.