Mad Love
Pilar Lopez de Ayala, Daniele Liotti, Manuela Arcuri
Directed By:
Vicente Aranda

Mad Love is the tale of Joan, a princess whose passionate love for Archduke Philip raises questions as to the competency of her sanity. This Spanish feature tries to bring about a piece of lesser known royalty history and present it through an accurate portrayal of the era, not unlike Elizabeth or Queen Margot. The story begins not long after Queen Isabella of Spain sends Columbus to the new world. Her daughter, Joan, is offered up in a marriage of political advantage with Philip. Their marriage begins with a lot of passion, but as time carries on, Joan becomes aware of Philip's unfaithfulness.

Once Queen Isabella passes, Joan becomes the new queen of Spain. During her time as queen, word of her mad rants of passion and erratic behavior follow her and begin to become evident as she finds that her husband is still finding other women to sleep with. At the advice of his advisors, Philip attempts to have Joan declared insane and take the throne himself.

In her first film, Pilar Lopez de Ayala is amazing as Joan. She covers a wide range of emotions and plays the balance between impassioned and faltering sanity well. It's obvious that the director wants to portray her character almost ambiguous as to whether she was truly mad or just very emotional and passionate about her love for Philip, a man who never cared much for her other than as a means to satiate his sexual desire.

Sets and costuming are exceptional and capture the look of the location and time period. A lot of care has been taken to represent the 15th - 16th century Spain well and it shows in the final product. The musical score is well done and captures a different emotional range than other timepiece films.

Foreign film purists will be pleased that the Spanish film is not dubbed, but comes with both English and French subtitles. Fortunately, the script is paced well, so even subtitle newbies can enjoy the story without much catching up.

Historical purists will probably be less pleased. A number of liberties seem to have been taken with the story for the sake of creating this historical love story. While many historians may tell you that Joan was indeed insane, a lot of the storytelling leaves it ambiguous for the sake of giving the viewer something of more interest.

On top of some historical liberties, the story's complete focus on Joan and Philip leaves the viewer feeling secluded from the rest of the world that they live in. When the story makes mention of the people Joan rules, one wonders who the heck has been ruling her country while Joan's been dealing with her husband. I think some effort to show more of the direct effect of Joan's rule on her kingdom would have helped diffuse the almost singular focus of the story.

With having said that, Mad Love is still a pretty good timepiece that places the spotlight on a character in history that the rest of the filmmaking world seems to have forgotten.

- - Kinderfeld

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