Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles: Original Spanish Biopic Animation about Luis Bunuel

Salvador Simó directed Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles, a highly original Spanish biographical animated film, concerns seminal film director Luis Buñuel making the 1933 feature Land Without Bread.

In a stranger-than-fiction tale befitting the revolutionary surrealist filmmaker, Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles, directed by Salvador Limo, tells the true story of how Buñuel made his second movie.

Paris, 1930. Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel are main figures of the Surrealist movement, but Buñuel is left penniless after a scandalous screening of his first film L’Age d’Or (The Golden Age).

However, his good friend, the sculptor Ramón Acín, buys a lottery ticket with the promise that, if he wins, he will pay for his next film. Incredibly, the ticket win and they set out to make the movie.

Both a buddy adventure and fascinating episode of cinematic history, Buñuel and the Labyrinth of the Turtles contains excerpts of Buñuel’s own footage from the production, to present an affecting portrait of an artist determined to make his film at all costs.

The script is penned by Eligio R. Montero and Simó, based on the graphic novel “Buñuel en el laberinto de las tortugas” by Fermín Solís.

It was shortlisted as one of three films in contention to be the Spanish entry for the 2019 Best International Feature Oscar, but lost to Almodovar’s Pain and Glory.

The controversy surrounding his first feature, L’Age d’Or, leaves director Luis Buñuel unable to find new work. An anthropologist named Maurice Legendre hands Buñuel an ethnographic study of Spain’s Las Hurdes region and asks if he would consider making a documentary of the region.

Buñuel’s friend, sculptor Ramon Acin, buys a lottery ticket and promises to fund the film, if he wins.  Ramon wins and keeps his promise, enabling Buñuel to assemble a crew in the town of La Alberca.

Buñuel drives the crew to a monastery that doubles as a hostel. From the monastery, the crew explores the nearby villages, which consist of ramshackle box-shaped houses packed tightly. The winding streets between the houses make each village resemble a labyrinth, and Ramon notes that the jagged roofs resemble the scales on a turtle.

The crew is appalled by the poverty-stricken conditions of the homes. Filming a school, they find out that locals make their money by getting government payments for taking in orphaned children; the schoolchildren crowd around Buñuel are desperate for affection.

Buñuel later finds a little girl dying on the street, and feels helpless for not having the medicine that would cure her.

Buñuel stages many scenes for dramatic effect, in opposition to his crew. In La Alberca, Buñuel makes Ramon hire a farmer to reenact the local tradition of ripping the head off of a rooster.

Later on, Buñuel wants to film the image of a mountain goat slipping and falling down a cliffside, but shoots a goat dead rather than wait for an accident to happen.

Buñuel also arranges for a donkey to get stung to death by bees, to use as a symbol for the suffering of the local people.

Buñuel is tormented by nightmares of his troubled childhood, one of which concerns his mother and the Virgin Mary, compelling him to dress in a nun’s habit.

When the sick girl dies, Buñuel has a nightmare where he sees a friend from the region as Death. The nightmare inspires him to ask the villagers to reenact a funeral for the film.

By 1933, Buñuel is back in Paris editing his film, Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan.

Title cards inform: Just days after the Nationalist coup in Spain, Ramon Acin and his wife were executed for their Anarchist activity. Buñuel releases his movie in Spain, but without Ramon’s name.

He was able to restore Ramon’s name to the credits many years later.