Film Review: Little Ashes

“Remember me when you are at the beach, and above all when you paint crackling things and little ashes. Oh, my little ashes! Put my name in the picture so that my name will serve for something in the world.” – Federico Lorca to Salvador Dali.

Directed by Paul Morrison, Little Ashes explores the young lives and friendship of surrealist artist Salvador Dalí (Robert Pattinson), filmmaker Luis Bunuel (Matthew McNulty) and writer Federico García Lorca (Javier Beltran). Set in 1922, Spain was dominated by the army and conservative morality invaded every sphere of life: social, artistic and sexual.

As the film opens, Salvador Dali is 18 years old and beginning university in Madrid. Wearing a frilly shirt and a pointy hat with a centre parting in his long hair, he steps out of his carriage into a crowd of suited and clean-cut men. He stood out from the crowd and behaved in an eccentric manner to draw attention to himself which was reflected in his work, creating a new genre of surrealism.

The main story of the film is set around the evolving friendship between Dali and Lorca. When Bunuel leaves for Paris, Dali and Lorca’s relationship suddenly crosses the line from platonic friendship into something far more intimate. Bunuel has a major disgust towards homosexuality, which in this era was also deeply frowned upon, but he must now watch helplessly as Dali and Lorca’s friendship develops into a love affair.

Whether Dali and Lorca truthfully had a homosexual relationship or not is unknown, but it is something that has often been questioned. Dali only opened up about his relationship with Lorca in his dying years, but constantly denied any homosexual feeling/actions towards him, and instead blamed it on Lorca being madly in love with him: “Deep down I felt that he was a great poet and that I owe him a tiny bit of the Divine Dali’s asshole.” It saddens the story that Dali felt he had to give such a false denial to the ‘accusation.’ Oh, how times have changed.

The film doesn’t exaggerate on the facts, rather it plays on the truth and paints its own story around what is known about their relationship. There is an obvious connection, an attraction, that is more than friendship from the beginning. The film shows this attraction and the sexual encounters between the two, but it always emphasises that Dali is unable to take it any further, whether he wanted to or not. Scenes of the two together are detailed and full of emotion – their first kiss whilst swimming in the sea under moonlight, tearing off each other’s clothes and falling to the floor, awkwardly kissing whenever they’re alone. Pattinson and Beltran express the relationship exceedingly well; the pain of having to hide such feelings, the fear of getting caught out and the obvious love that lies beneath it all.

About three-quarters of the way through the film, the story line gets a little crazy, as does Dali’s personality. At this point, Pattinson shows that he’s far from the glittering vampire from the Twilight Saga that we know him as, and that he is able to play serious roles with a great deal of emotion as he does in Remember Me. The film also boasts a brilliant performance from Beltran.

Little Ashes isn’t a film you would take a day off to watch at the cinema, even if it has been hyped up by the use of heart-throb Robert Pattinson but, after studying Art for seven years, I found the story fascinating and somewhat admirable.

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