Mad Love (2002)

Mad Love (2002)
Film review by: Witney Seibold



            I am not a reader of Romance novels, but I am familiar with the mythology. I know the large tanned pectorals gruffly thrust up against barely clad heaving breasts. I know the flowing pirate shirts and the throbbing lust in immaculately cared-for gardens. I know that they’re really just smut without the pictures. Imagine, now, if all of the Romance books were torn up, reassembled, and then jolted to life with lightning. You would probably have a creature that resembles Vicente Aranda’s “Mad Love (Juana la Loca).”

Spain. Told in flashback from the perspective of a lustful elderly nun, Mad Love tells the story Juana (in subtitles, Joan, played by Pilar López de Ayala) as she moves to Belgium to meet her new husband, the Duke, Felipe (Daniele Lioti). He is a long-haired Fabio type who beds her within minutes of seeing her. That first encounter puts her in a transfixed nymphomania for the duration of the marriage, which would be fine, were Felipe not a cheating jerk. She is, however, astonishingly fertile, and quickly makes a nice happy family. Joan is willful and jealous and throws tantrums every time she hears of a new mistress. Her behavior, which would get an 8-year-old thrown from a Chuck E. Cheese’s, is perceived as madness by the other aristocrats. Joan faces dethronement. Husband continues to cheat…

            Sorry if the synopsis petered out there, but the film stretches onward in the same manner for a large portion of the film. There are other elements, like a Satanic Gypsy curse, parents passing away, and a bevy of attractive handmaidens, but they are all mere sideshows to the murky hulk that is the central story of Joan.

            There were impressive things about this film. The costumes were top-notch, the photography lush and beautiful, and the Castilian language spoken with a surprisingly regal authenticity. It was also nice to have a new perspective on this chapter of history (which has connections to Columbian America through Isabel). However to get to these things, one need slog through the unfocussed Romantic sludge, and the ever obnoxious Mad Joan.

Published in: on April 24, 2009 at 7:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

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