This is the best surprise since Possession -- thoughtful, surprising and so well-acted. It's set in South America, but all the actors speak (hevily accented) English...Malkovich did this on purpose, but it's intriguing: more of the dumbing down of "foreign" cinema to attract viewers too lazy to read subtitles? Or is it an effect?
Javier Bardem is incredible as Rejas, the main character. He's sexy and charismatic...in an offbeat, ethnic way, rather like how Adrien Brody and Marku Peltolta are so captivatingly charming and compelling...while not being conventially "handsome."
Javier Bardem's Rejas is 36, but he's really only 32...which is a bit astounding as he looks rather older with his dashing grey hair. It's even more amazing when you see him with The Dancer, Laura Morante, who was born in 1956 and is going to be 47 this year! She looks younger than I do! I almost wonder if that isn't a typo on IMDb's part...
Regardless...this is a fascinating movie...and one open to endless discussion and interpretation.
Someone on the IMDb Message Boards had this to say...which is brilliant: "Continuing along the philosophical line, Yolanda is the spirit and Rejas the mind. This recalls the myth of Psyche and Eros, where the mind and spirit were united in total darkness. Their love was destroyed when Psyche (mind) lit a light to see what her lover looked like.
Yolanda is afraid of the darkness and seeks a guide, a moral compass, or god. Rejas is not afraid of the darkness, and gives her a lamp (reason) to be her guide. He has used art to craft the lamp, just as only through art can reason and emotion be united. In the movie, reason and emotion are united in Rejas' daughter, who was nurtured by her father but learned to dance from Yolanda."
Probably one of the most insightful things I've seen said about a movie, and it's just a comment to someone's post. Wow.