“…a deeply evocative experience…”
Rolf de Heer (Bad Boy Bubby, The Quiet Room) has long proven his ability to fearlessly tackle subject matter that simultaneously enlightens and unnerves. The Old Man Who Read Love Stories is perhaps a more romantic dalliance for De Heer, but is no less relentless in its excavation of the soul’s darkest and most intricate depths.
The old man of the film’s title is Antonio Bolivar (Dreyfuss), living alone in a tiny Amazonian jungle settlement. A virtual hermit, his only pleasure is reading romance novels delivered to him by an eccentric dentist (Weaving). But when an enraged jaguar begins killing locals, Antonio is asked to lead a hunting expedition. The quest revives the old man’s truncated senses and allows him to finally make peace with the memories of his devastating past.
It’s a cruel, archaic world that De Heer weaves from the muck of the jungle and the murkiness of corruption and poverty. This is a deeply evocative experience, driven by an atmosphere of horror, heat and death – you can almost smell the ragged corpses that wash up in the river, ravaged by jungle beasts. But within this gruesomeness flow weighty themes of affection, strength and self discovery. Dreyfuss is simply astonishing as the tender but troubled old man who, word by word, dissects love stories at painful length, allowing them to manifest memories of his own love and loss. When the showdown between Antonio and the jaguar finally comes, it is a spiritual battle for dignity in what is an exceptionally imaginative emotional landscape.