If you’re a Formed subscriber you may have noticed the recent addition of a Spanish movie about a not so well known Saint. Slaves and Kings. This is a movie that falls into the category of outlining a Saint’s life and what they did on Earth, to give us an idea of why they’ve gained the title of canonized Saint. This time we’re looking at St. Anthony Mary Claret, a Saint I haven’t heard about before seeing this movie.
First off, many movie snobs might already be put off by the fact this is a Spanish film. Spain is known for putting out quite bad movies, even to this day. Spanish films can come off as awkward, clunky, poorly written, and sometimes leave you scratching your head. I gave up on Spanish movies in 2019 after seeing The Platform and The Silent War. This film is different though, it follows a typical “Life of a Saint” biographical formula with a secondary storyline.
The movie technically takes place in 1930’s Spain, where a successful author named Azorin is approached by a priest with the request that he writes a synopsis on Fr. Claret’s life to help his case for canonization in the Church. Azorin quickly turns the priest away, claiming he is busy with work and that writing about Fr. Claret would stain his own image, as Fr. Claret has been disgraced in public opinion. The priest leaves some books behind for Azorin to take a look at “if he gets bored”.
Azorin of course looks at the books and realizes that Fr. Claret has been wrongfully disgraced as works on him have been altered to slander him. The movie then plays out as Azorin talks about this and Claret’s life with his close friend at a cafe. A majority of the movie then is of Claret’s life, with it cutting back to Azorin’s life as he deals with the struggles facing Spain as it gets closer to the beginning of the Spanish Civil war. The contrast works well, with Claret’s early life being a vain textile factory owner who has a change of heart and pursues priesthood, as Azorin decides to drop the book he is working on to focus on Fr. Claret’s canonization. Then Fr. Claret having to deal with the French invasion during his first missionary trip set in Catalonia, as Azorin further deals with political uprising in Spain. Fr. Claret is then sent to Cuba as an Archbishop, where he is vilified by the local higher class for being antislavery. He is then sent back to Spain to serve as the Queen’s personal confessor, where he is reluctantly thrown in with the aristocrats who the Spanish populace is seeking to overthrow as the Spanish revolution gains steam, while in contrast Azorin has to flee with his wife to France for publishing his articles on Fr. Claret and being a known supporter of the republicans.
The movie does end quite abruptly, with Fr. Claret dying of a heart attack in the middle of the courtyard after seeing an apparition of Mary. This is set next to Azorin having a changed perspective of his life, even though he was already Catholic, his faith has been evolved further.
There is no narration throughout the movie, just the insulation that what is happen with Fr. Claret is what Azorin is telling his friend about his life. The camerawork is as basic as it needs to be for a movie of this caliber, and the actors are quite good (with the exception of Fr. Claret’s actor being horrible at fake crying)
The movie is of course in Spanish but you can watch it dubbed in English. I highly recommend it as with the way they chose to progress the story kept my attention well. I don’t think I even looked at my phone and was surprised so much time had passed, with the movie feeling much shorter than it’s almost 1:30 runtime.
Watch it and tell me what you think! And St. Claret pray for us!