Foreign Friday: Butterfly

A European import teaches us how simple and beautiful film can be.

“La lengua de las mariposas” or “Butterfly Tongues” (in some US markets) tells the delightful story of Moncho, a young boy’s coming of age as his world opens up through the eyes of his beloved teacher, Don Gregorio.

As the teacher brings the boy into the fascinating world of butterflies, the boy begins to emerge from his cocoon. But looming on the horizon is the surgence of a fascist regime that threatens to unravel their innocent world.

In the summer of 1936, which is when the films takes place, the whole of Spain was intertwined in the struggle between the Mussolini inspired Nationalist Party and the Republicans.

But as the rest of Europe was being over run by a couple different fascist regimes, Spain was trying desperately to prevent that outcome.

The film “Butterfly” brings in these elements and lets these two main characters deal with the impending doom and the heart-breaking aftermath.

The film also beautifully depicts these simple folks who are desperately trying to find their way in the world. From one side you have the teacher who is just trying to bring peace to his students and their world. And on the other a young boy trying to understand the gigantic world around him.

The teachings of the butterflies are a metaphor for the change coming in Spain and in both of their lives.

This metaphor rings cleverly through each character in the film which does beg the question did the teacher know about the coming conflict and was trying to say something subtly.

After watching this film, I learned the character of Don Gregorio was played by a legendary Spanish actor named Fernando Fernan Gomez. I could see even before I knew who he was that this man is amazing. I haven’t seen this kind of subtle grace since Sir John Gielgud. I wish I had a teacher like him in my life.

(4 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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