Political prisoner Valentin Arregui (Raul Julia) and homosexual pederast Luis Molina (William Hurt) share a Brazilian prison cell in this fantastical drama from the book by Manuel Puig. Sensitive and flamboyant, Molina helps pass the time by recounting memories from one of his favorite films, a wartime romantic thriller that just may also be a Nazi propaganda film.
He weaves the characters into an ongoing narrative meant to spur Valentin’s imagination and distract him from the brutal realities of political imprisonment and separation from the woman he loves. Hard around the edges, and willing to die for his political principles, Valentin nonetheless allows Molina to penetrate some of his defensive shell. An odd friendship forms between the two vastly different prisoners, the dreamer and the activist.
Kiss of the Spider Woman (Portuguese: O Beijo da Mulher-Aranha) is a 1985 Brazilian-American drama film directed by Argentine-born Brazilian director Héctor Babenco, and adapted by Leonard Schrader from the Manuel Puig novel of the same name. William Hurt, Raúl Juliá, Sônia Braga, José Lewgoy, and Milton Gonçalves star in the leading roles.
About the Story
The film tells of two very different men who share a prison cell in Brazil during the Brazilian military government: Valentin Arregui, who is imprisoned (and has been tortured) due to his activities on behalf of a leftist revolutionary group, and Luis Molina, a pederast in prison for having sex with an underage boy.
Molina passes the time by recounting memories from one of his favorite films, a wartime romantic thriller that’s also a Nazi propaganda film. He weaves the characters into a narrative meant to comfort Arregui and distract him from the harsh realities of political imprisonment and the separation from his lover, Marta. Arregui allows Molina to penetrate some of his defensive self and opens up. Despite Arregui occasionally snapping at Molina over his rather shallow views of political cinema, an unlikely friendship develops between the two.
As the story develops, it becomes clear that Arregui is being poisoned by his jailers to provide Molina with a chance to befriend him, and that Molina is spying on Arregui on behalf of the Brazilian secret police. Molina has namely been promised a parole if he succeeds in obtaining information that will allow the secret police to find the revolutionary group’s members.
Molina falls in love with Arregui, and Arregui responds after a fashion, culminating in a physical consummation of their love on Molina’s last night in prison. Molina is granted parole in the hopes Arregui will reveal information about his contacts when he knows Molina will be out of prison. Arregui provides Molina with a telephone number and message for his comrades. Molina at first refuses to take the number, fearing the consequences of treason, but he relents, and he and Arregui bid farewell with a kiss.
In the final scenes, Molina calls the telephone number, and a meeting is arranged with the revolutionary group. But the secret police have had Molina under surveillance, and a gun battle ensues, with the revolutionaries, assuming Molina has betrayed them, shooting him. As he wanders the streets wounded, the policemen catch up with him and demand that he disclose the telephone number in exchange for them taking him to the hospital for treatment, but Molina refuses and succumbs to his wounds. On the orders of the homophobic police chief (Milton Gonçalves), the policemen dump Molina’s body in a rubbish pit and fabricate a story about his death and involvement with the revolutionary group.
Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985)
Directed by: Hector Babenco
Starring: William Hurt, Raul Julia, Sonia Braga, José Lewgoy, Milton Gonçalves, Míriam Pires, Nuno Leal Maia, Fernando Torres
Screenplay by: Leonard Schrader
Production Design by: Clovis Bueno
Cinematography by: Rodolfo Sánchez
Film Editing by: Mauro Alice
Art Direction by: Clovis Bueno
Costume Design by: Patricio Bisso
Music by: Nando Carneiro, John Neschling
Distributed by: Island Alive, FilmDallas Pictures
Release Date: July 26, 1985