Simón Bolívar fought over 100 battles against the Spanish Empire in South America. He rode over 70,000 miles on horseback. His military campaigns covered twice the territory of Alexander the Great. His army never conquered – it liberated.
David Lean was responsible for some of the most beautiful and glorious looking films in history: “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Doctor Zhivago” and “The Bridge on the River Kwai”, to name but a few. His scope was majestic and many filmmakers have tried, in vein, to replicate his stylistic approach but none have come close to capturing the magic he was capable of. In watching “The Liberator” (original title “”Libertador”), I couldn’t help but be taken aback by cinematographer Xavi Giménez and his stunning combination of the beautiful and rugged South American landscape and the sweeping grandeur of the film’s emotional essence which draws us inside this sprawling narrative.
I imagined that this is what a David Lean movie would look like today. The visual brilliance on display is aligned perfectly with the foundation of the story of one man’s dream and vision and eventual realization of Latin America’s successful struggle for independence from the Spanish Empire. The movie begins in Venezuela, as Simón Bolívar (Édgar Ramírez), a young wealthy man who owns most of the land in his territory, returns home with his beautiful young wife, Maria (María Valverde). He is totally in love with her but she slowly succumbs to yellow fever and eventually passes away. Filled with sadness and anger, Simón leaves his home and decides that politics is the best approach to overcome a broken heart.
He meets up with his former private instructor and mentor Simón Rodríguez where between them, they decide to lead the revolt against the Spanish Empire. The movie covers Simón’s early life and career right up to his death, supposedly from tuberculosis. However, there were many theories that he perished as a result of chronic arsenic poisoning and that he was also the victim of an assassination and that he was betrayed by one of his closest confidants. In July, 2010, Bolívar’s body was ordered to be exhumed whereby after thorough investigations, forensics experts released their report claiming that there was no proof of poisoning or any other unnatural causes of death.
Édgar Ramírez as the titular character Simón Bolívar is a revelation. We can see the joy in his face when he is with his wife and the sadness and anger after she passes and never once, do his emotions or facial expressions feel forced or contrived. After living a good life, full of riches and servants, it is all taken away from him and he winds up living in the jungles of Curaçao where he witnesses, firsthand, the poor and impoverished who have absolutely nothing. The demeanor of conviction and self-confidence that overcomes him, made me want to get up and revolt right alongside him. We can see how conscientious he is and that he’s concerned to choose the right path for the colonies. He is a man who cares about the people because, quite simply, he is one of them too.
Director Alberto Arvelo has constructed a magnificent opus, filled with action and adventure, love and romance, friendship and betrayal, life and death and by the time the movie ends and you realize that two hours have gone by, you find yourself wishing that this was a mini-series and that you could tune in the following week and watch so much more about these intriguing and provocative characters and the intertwining stories throughout. Highly recommended.
In select theaters October 3rd
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