Death of a Cyclist
May 15, 2008
Director Juan Antonio Bardem has been cited as being a vital factor in launching modern Spanish cinema. His film, Death of a Cyclist (1955), was one of the first Spanish films to win the critics prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Bardem was inspired by the Italian cinema school of neorealism and applied the same aesthetic to his own films. The DVD’s liner notes point out that, for years, Bardem had been trying to find a visual form for opposing Francoism and found out in the films of Michelangelo Antonioni.
Juan Fernandez Soler (Closas) and his wealthy, married mistress Maria jose de Castro (Bose) are driving back from a late-night rendezvous and accidentally hit a cyclist. They drive off without helping the person and the film explores the ramifications of this action. Juan is a professor with a modest salary thanks to his brother-in-law but seems to resent his lot in life or, rather, he feels trapped by it. Juan reads the newspaper the next day and finds out that the cyclist died. Guilt and paranoia begin to affect him and Maria.
They meet and try to figure out if anyone saw or knows what they did. Maria soon finds herself being blackmailed by a friend (Casaravilla) of her husband’s who claims to have seen her out that night on the road where the cyclist died. Juan and Maria are understandably freaked out as they have a lot to lose. Her husband’s friend seems to enjoy tormenting them by keeping them guessing about what exactly he knows.
Juan represents the middle working class while Maria comes from the rich, upper class. The film depicts their differences and the conflict between them. Death of a Cyclist plays out like a tightly-plotted Hitchcock thriller with a dash of Antonioni existentialism. It features richly textured, black and white cinematography that creates an atmospheric look perfect for this film noirish tale.
“Calle Bardem” is a documentary about director Juan Antonio Bardem and his life and career with soundbites from friends, family and collaborators. It paints a portrait of a brilliant and uncompromising artist obsessed with cinema and politics. This is an excellent look at Bardem and his worldview.