Film Review: Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles

Whilst today, Luis Buñuel is a household name for cinephiles and Spanish film fans alike, this wasn’t always the case. After the controversy surrounding his feature debut, L’Age d’Or, the filmmaker struggled to find work after returning to Spain. No one was willing to finance him, but when he was approached with an offer of an ethnographic study, he saw the possibilities. Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles tells the story.

The anthropologist Maurice Legendre approaches Buñuel with a study of the peoples, culture and customs of the Las Hurdes region of Spain. His friend, the sculptor Ramon Acin, win the lottery and comes good on his promise to finance the director’s next film. After assembling a crew, they head into province; documenting the locals in a number of situations. However, not simply content with mere observation, he stages a number of scenes to add flavour.

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles is an unusual ‘making of’ film which provides a fascinating insight into the mind of one of the country’s most famous filmmakers. Whilst the animation isn’t groundbreaking, it suits the topic perfectly. This is enhanced by clips from the original film. Salvador Simó digs into Buñuel’s past and future to paint a picture of a complex character. Whilst the premise might sound strange, Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles is undeniably compelling.

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles will be available on BFI Player and other digital platforms from 16 July 2020.

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