The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (Ensayo de un crimen)
Directed by Luis Buñuel
Written by Luis Buñuel and Eduardo Ugarte from a novel by Rudolfo Usigli
Alianza Cinematográfia Española
Here is another great satiric take on the theme of frustrated desire by Buñuel. It appealed immediately to my perverse sense of humor.
As the film begins, Archibaldo de la Cruz is in a police station confessing to the murder of a nun. The sister had been running in a panic and ended up at the bottom of an empty elevator shaft. We segue into flashback and to the root of Archibaldo’s problem.
Archie is a bad, bad boy who was pampered by his mother and terrorized his governess. He is given a music box when he objects to his mother leaving for the theater. His governess tells him the story of how a king used the magic box to slay his enemies. This appeals to Archie’s criminal mind and he starts daydreaming. That is when his governess takes a stray bullet from rebels in the streets.
The music box goes missing for a number of years after the home is sacked by the rebel forces. In adulthood, Archie reunites with it. Thus begins Archie’s life of crime, wherein he can see his victims die but not take pleasure in the kill.
I just loved this. There are some great surrealist touches and some delicious pitch black comedy. Part of the point seems to come from the Catholic teaching that being tempted is tantamount to committing the sinful act. It sure has messed with a lot of people’s minds over the years. Recommended to Buñuel fans.