Fransisco Goya is getting on in years, deaf, and succumbing to illness. Living outside of Spain in protest at the rule of Ferdinand VII, he spends a lot of time reflecting on his past - most noteably an affair with the Duchess of Alba.
The bridge between Reason and Romanticism, Francisco Goya y Lucientes was one of the forefathers of modern art. Yet, as Carlos Saura demonstrates, the evolution from court painter to proto-Impressionist came at a considerable psychological price. Isolated by deafness, tormented by Spain's turbulent past and haunted by memories of an affair with the Duchess of Alba (Verdu), Rabal passionately conveys the agony of an exiled genius struggling with his demons.
The flashback structure reinforces this sense of dislocation, although it does make events difficult to follow. However, this is a film more intent on visual than historical authenticity, as Saura and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro expertly recreate Goya's canvases, sketches and lithographs.
Rabal, as Goya, passionately conveys the agony of an exiled genius struggling with his demons, while Carlos Saura's sure hand makes sense of a very complex subject.