Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles: Fearing and Embracing Surrealism and Reality

The story of Luis Buñuel’s venture in the realm of documentary in the form of Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan, provides a provocative narrative to say the least. The story follows Buñuel and his friend Ramón Acin as they travel to Las Hurdes, a poverty-stricken town where access to medicine, food and space among other things are close to, if not completely, nonexistent.

Buñuel is seen from the very beginning as an artist who is equal parts determined and tortured. Buñuel’s dreams, which always burst with surreal imagery, are well animated and show his fears, his darker ambitions and his inferiority complex. In one scene where Bunñuel is buying bread, several loaves begin to droop in a Dali-esque fashion, causing him to run out of the store in a panic. In another scene, Buñuel’s father, whom dealt him a fair amount of his trauma as a child, appears in his dream and chokes Buñuel while criticizing his work. However, while the dreams are captivating, the animation for the rest of the film is fine at best. It is understandable to want to focus on the story at hand and the semi-realism the film provides works to said degree.

The way Buñuel is portrayed paints him as a character meant to be sympathized with, but the task is rather daunting. For every emotional beat the audience receives, there are two where Buñuel is seen as amoral or as a straight up jerk. However, his character flaws make the content the crew is filming so much more interesting. When seeing how Buñuel films a scene and then seeing how the scene played out in the documentary, truly made the film watchable.

The ending of Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles detracts from its overall quality. Without spoiling anything, there are moments shoehorned in to try and make Bunñuel seem like a better character than he really was. By the time the film gives him these extra boosts in character, the damage had already been done. Nonetheless, there is a great story to be told and for the most part Buñuel in the Labyrinth on the Turtles delivers.


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