Santiago Navajas

Essayist and cultural critic

Voted for

2001: A Space Odyssey1968Stanley Kubrick
Battleship Potemkin1925Sergei M. Eisenstein
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance1962John Ford
Ran1985Akira Kurosawa
Andrei Rublev1966Andrei Tarkovsky
Triumph of the Will1935Leni Riefenstahl
GERMANIA, ANNO ZERO1948Roberto Rossellini
Los olvidados1950Luis Buñuel
In a Lonely Place1950Nicholas Ray
Modern Times1936Charles Chaplin


2001: A Space Odyssey

1968 USA, United Kingdom

Kubrick managed to combine the visual poem within a suspenseful narrative with philosophical content. So all three major audiences are satisfied. Most people looking for entertainment get it (with a little patience). Critics, who are mainly interested in the formal aspect, can do their usual dissections on shots and countershots, ellipsis and off-camera. Finally, philosophers dig under the divertimento and syntax looking for the meaning of what Kubrick wanted to say about the meaning of existence in times of thermonuclear threat.

Battleship Potemkin

1925 USSR

Eisenstein, hero and traitor of Bolshevik cinema, who received the Stalin Prize, was censored, and was on the verge of ending up in Siberia (since his visit to the United States, when he greeted Charles Chaplin in admiration). While with Griffith cinema adapted the novelistic strategy of depicting trees, in "Battleship Potemkin" Eisenstein rose to give us a panoramic view of the forest of reality.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

1962 USA

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) was, a priori, a film doomed to disaster. Ford had turned 67 and against his habit the film takes place almost entirely indoors. Was the old man finished? Besides, all the actors were at least thirty years older than their characters. The film was calculatedly ambiguous. Who was Ford going with? Two men shot the thug Liberty Valance (played with his peerless personality by Lee Marvin), but only one killed him. The conquest of rights is based on a death, true, but, and therein lies Ford's moral complexity, his protagonists receive a mortal wound in the depths of their convictions. A wound that may be endured, painfully and silently, but will never heal. That physical frontier, the Wild West, is also the line of the shadow that Joseph Conrad spoke of in his novel of the same name, a moral line that Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) and the lawyer Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) will cross in search of Liberty Valance to, when they return, never be the same.


1985 France, Japan

The best interpreter of a brilliant 17th century English playwright is a 20th century Japanese master filmmaker. Paradox? Ran is the version of King Lear. Both actions take place on two islands 9406 kilometers apart, but Shakespeare is the least historical author in history. His tragedies occur sub specie aeternitatis. Kurosawa's film is spectacularly operatic and delicately poetic. If it were not blasphemous I would say that the film is better than the play.

Andrei Rublev

1966 USSR

Among filmmakers, one of the paradigmatic cases of indomitable entrepreneurial spirit was Andrei Tarkovski. For each of his films he had conflicts with the Soviet State Committee for Cinematography; to the point that, from 1982 onwards, his films, which triumphed in festivals around the world, were no longer screened in the Soviet Union and his name was never again mentioned in the State-controlled media.

Andrei Rublev, especially the episode entitled "The Bell", can be seen as a hymn to creative freedom, to the innovator as a window that opens in societies to creativity, and to courage and risk-taking as two of the fundamental characteristics that anyone who intends, to the extent of his possibilities and within his field of action, to transform the world, must have.

As Tarkovsky himself declared: "Everything I have made and everything I intend to make is related to characters who have something to overcome".

Triumph of the Will

1935 Germany

If the bad guy has to fascinate more than anyone else, then there is no film more fascinating than Triumph of the Will. Terrible but great.


1948 Italy, France, Federal Republic of Germany

If Triumph of the Will is the exaltation of Hitler, Germania, anno zero is the refutation of the Führer. If Triumph of the Will is truth in documentary, Germania anno zero is truth in fiction. If Triumph of the Will is the triumph of will, Germania, Anno Zero is the triumph of compassion.

In a Lonely Place

1950 USA

Dixon Steele : I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.

A film as beautiful as it is sad, as vitalistic as it is pessimistic, as merciless as it is empathetic, as furious as it is tender, as violent as it is loving.