Release Year: 1969
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
Writers: Franco Solinas (screenplay & story), Giorgio Arlorio (screenplay & story), Norman Gant (based on the noels by)
Starring: Marlon Brando, Evaristo Márquez, Renato Salvatori, Dana Ghia, Valeria Ferran Wanani, Giampiero Albertini, Carlo Palmucci
William Walker (Marlon Brando), a British mercenary is sent to a Caribbean island to investigate a rebellion. Years later he is hired to strike down the same rebels he helped to build up, because they have become too powerful and threaten British sugar interests.
This Italian drama film is a grim and uncompromising look at the nature of slavery and the cynical mechanics of war in the Imperial Age. Brando (Apocalypse Now, 1979) is great as the sometimes cold-hearted and calculating, sometimes sympathetic British mercenary William Walker. The first time appears in the story it is to help support a slave rebellion that can help the white elites to declare the island’s independence from Portugal. Walker develops a sort of friendship with Evaristo Márquez’s rebel leader José Dolores and manages to manuever things into place as order. Later he returns with a completely different agenda and the cynicism of the Imperial powers is exposed. It is a gritty portrayal that offers glimpses of humanity only to undermine that hope with ambiguity. The story is interesting and its themes begs deeper consideration. However, the style is somewhat off-putting (at least to me) and you will have to be able to cope with Italian synchronization. Pontecorvo’s (Battle of Algiers, 1966) style is interesting, if somewhat oddly paced, and Morricone’s score is, as usual, memorable. Recommended.
Marlon Brando once said that this film contained the best acting he had done in his career.
Evaristo Márquez, who plays the rebel leader José Dolores, was not an actor but a poor villager from Colombia, whom the director discovered while scouting for locations.
The original title “Queimada” is the Portuguese word for “burnt”. Originally the film was entitled “quemada”, which is the Spanish word for “burnt” and set in a Spanish colony. The setting and title were changed after the Spanish government threaten to boycott the film for what it considered to be and anti-Spanish bias.
Picture Copyright: Sony