Head in the Clouds (2004)
Director: John Duigan.
Starring: Charlize Theron (Gilda Bessé), Penélope Cruz (Mia), Stuart Townsend (Guy Malyon), Thomas Kretschmann (Major Franz Bietrich), Steven Berkoff (Charles Bessé), David La Haye (Lucien), Karine Vanasse (Lisette), Gabriel Hogan (Julian Elsworth), Peter Cockett (Max), Élizabeth Chouvalidzé (Fortune Teller), Jolyane Langlois (Gilda, Age 14), Sophie Desmarais (Élodie), ÉloVsa Laflamme-Cervantes (Julie).
two women and one man confronted with the growing fascism in Spain & eventual civil war
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Paris, 1924. Three girls go in for a palm-reading. Gilda Bessé presents her palm for a reading. The fortune-teller seems upset at what she sees, but she only tells Gilda: "I cannot see." The three girls leave. Then Gilda comes back and wants to know what she saw. "I see your 34th year" is the answer.
Cambridge University, England, 1933. Gilda barges in to the room of student Guy Malyon. She is wet from the rain outside. She takes her wet dress off, but keeps her slip on. When she introduces herself, Guy says he already knows about her. In fact, he says she is famous on campus. Guy is originally from Dublin, Ireland. His father was killed in what the Irish refer to as the "Troubles" (the struggle over the Northern Ireland question). Gilda is infamous for being very open and very sexually forward. The following morning Guy and Gilda leave the dorm room. She kisses him good-bye. Her father is the owner of one of the French champagne houses. Her mother is American. They are divorced. Gilda has lived mostly in the United States. Her boyfriend on campus is the wealthy Julian Elsworth. Later Julian thanks Guy for taking Gilda in and invites him to a party.
Guy goes to the party in the hopes of seeing Gilda again, but Gilda is stranded in Calais. Guy brought a date, but it appears that she and Julian will be having sex later. Later Guy sees his date lying naked on a bed with Julian and another guy and gal having sex. Guy waits around for awhile. Gilda comes in, but is not apparently upset about the news about Julian and company. Guy and Gilda kiss sitting on the pool table. In the morning Julian finds the two together on the pool table. He is a bit upset that Gilda is naked and he asks her to put some clothes on. Guy thought that Gilda and Julian might split up, but they did not.
In the newspaper Guy reads about Gilda's mother committing suicide. When he sees Gilda, however, she merely says: "She was a stranger to me, really." She is leaving England to travel. Guy says he wants to go with her, but she tells him that he has to finish his degree. After a year she stops writing to Guy and he starts to forget about her. The news of the day is about the Spanish Civil War between the fascists and the republicans. One day in a theatre, Guy sees Gilda in a movie.
Back in Paris she writes him. On her insistence, he goes to visit her. He tells her that he has been raising money for the Spanish Republicans. A fellow named Max comes in. He owns the gallery where Gilda will display her photography. Max kisses Gilda's neck. At the showing of her work, Gilda presents a living sculpture with a naked woman and naked man. The woman is named Mia.
Later Gilda introduces Guy to Mia. Gilda says she is her protégé. Mia has a limp. She is from Asturias, Spain. Gilda has sex with Max in another room. Mia tells Guy not to be jealous: "He's nothing special to her." Hearing the sexual noise coming from the room, Guy takes a long walk. Later Gilda tells Guy that she threw Max out. He was getting too possessive. Gilda says that she won't let Guy go to war in Spain. The two sit in the tub together with hats on. Mia comes home to the noise of sex coming from one of the rooms. She looks through the half-glass door and sees them having sex. She definitely seems upset.
Mia is dating a new fellow, Lucien. The four go dancing together. Mia and Gilda dance together and are so close that they draw a lot of attention from the others at the night club. Back home, Gilda has Mia dance for her and Guy. The next day all three awake in the same bed. It is Christmas day. Hitler speaks on the radio, which upsets Mia. So Guy turns off the radio.
Near Rheims, May 1937. Gilda and Guy visit with her father in his huge chateau. The place looks like a palace. Gilda wears some of her mother's clothes. Her father says she does this to upset him. There is obvious tension between dad and daughter.
Back in the apartment, Gilda sees that a crouching Mia has received a bad whipping from Lucien. Mia was at one time a strip-tease dancer. Gilda telephones Lucien and sets up a date with him. She sends Mia and Guy to a film. There Mia is very upset by the newsreel of the serious fighting going on in Spain. Mia tells Guy that some soldiers in Spain injured her leg while roughing up people. She tried to help the other injured people, but knew nothing. That is when she decided to become a nurse. She says that she needs to go back to her country. Meanwhile, Gilda meets with Lucien. He wants to beat up on her, but she turns the tables on him. She ties him to the bed and then beats him with a belt.
When the three are together and talking about Spain, Guy says that Gilda lives a cocoon. She is very apolitical and doesn't even like talking about politics. Guy tells her to marry him. She says that she doesn't want children and that she has doomed genes.
One day Gilda overhears Guy telling Mia that they need trained nurses in Spain. It seems that the two are planning to go to Spain. Gilda is very upset about the idea of losing the two people she loves so much. The three spend their last week together at the chateau, while Gilda's father is away. Mia and Gilda start kissing and then Gilda deliberately bites Mia lip making it bleed. Then Gilda calls Guy: "Traitor." Guy and Mia get on a ship headed to Spain.
Teruel, Spain, January 1938. We see Guy taking part in an ambush of Franco's soldiers. Guy shoots and kills one of the soldiers. All the enemy are killed in the ambush. Back in Paris, Gilda is still very upset over her loss. Guy writes to Gilda about killing a soldier. Mia always writes letters to Gilda. (Gilda just drops the letters unopened on her desktop.) Guy visits Mia at the field hospital. They agree to meet after her work is done. A doctor drives her in the ambulance to an old tannery building where the soldiers are staying. (Along the way we see two soldiers sneaking off the road as the ambulance approaches.) Guy takes her up to the loft. There they compare notes. There has been no word from Gilda at all. Guy says that with the Germans and Italians on their side, it looks likes the fascists are going to win in Spain. He tells Mia that once Gilda told him that he should have a child with Mia. Mia tells him that the times with him and Gilda were the happiest times of her life. Guy and Mia kiss and kiss again. Mia says good-bye in the morning. As the ambulance drives away, Guy hears an explosion. The ambulance drove over a mine in the road. Both Mia and the doctor were killed. Of course, Guy is very upset.
Bastille Day, July 1938. Fireworks brighten the sky. Gilda finally decides to open one of the letters from Mia and Guy. She chooses the latest one and finds out about the death of Mia. She cries over the news.
Guy comes to Paris. He crossed into France with the remnants of his unit. The war was lost to the fascists. He sees Gilda on the street and she sees him. She stops for awhile, but then walks on. Guy's eyes becomes watery with tears. He leaves.
London, September 3, 1939. Churchill speaks on the radio. He tells his countrymen: "The country is at war with Germany." France is soon overrun and there are Germans in Paris.
Early in 1944. Guy is in the service. He is sent into France to establish communication links with the French Resistance prior to the D-Day invasion. Later he is transferred to Paris. There are German soldiers all over the place. He sees Gilda dining with a Nazi officer in a restaurant. Guy watches the comings and goings of Gilda with her Nazis. She has become the local scandal of her block. One day he shows up at her apartment. She tries to ignore him, but he chases her. He grabs her and they fall to the floor. He kisses her while she struggles to push him off her. After a short struggle, she starts kissing Guy. Later Guy asks Gilda why. Why this? Gilda only tells him that he should go. He asks her if she is in love with the German officer with whom she has sex. She doesn't answer. She tells him to go out the back way. She says: "Forget about me, as I have you. Your're out of my life now."
Back at Resistance headquarters the fellow in command balls Guy out. He tells Guy that he has endangered the entire mission and the lives of the Resistance people. He says if he ever sees him with Gilda again, he himself will shoot Guy dead.
Air sirens go off. Guy talks to the Resistance people to help them prepare for what's coming up. Gilda is called a "German whore!" when she and her officer bump a French couple from a restaurant. The officer wants to do something about it, but Gilda tells him to forget it. The officer surprises Gilda by celebrating her birthday (which she never does). He did some research on her. She is 33. (Gilda is taken back for 33 years is only 1 year away from the 34 years mentioned by the fortune teller.)
One night Gilda listens into one of her officer's telephone conversations. She discovers that they have gotten wise to Guy. The Nazis watch Guy from a room across the street. He is to meet a contact in the restaurant. Gilda suddenly shows up at the restaurant. She tells Guy to go down to the restroom and change into the clothes there. After a short while, Gilda joins him in the restroom. She tells him that they picked up his contact man and tortured him to get the information from him. Guy finishes changing into a priest's clothing. She tells Guy: "I had no idea it would be you." She leaves through the restroom window. Thirty seconds later, Guy crawls out the same window. Neither of them arouse any suspicion.
D-Day arrives. The French Resistance goes into full operation. Guy with two members of the Resistance go to the railroad yard to blow up the tracks and trains. They are able to set the charges, but are spotted as they try to leave. In the following struggle, Guy is wounded. Then there is a terrific explosion. The French Resistance fellow has to piggy-back the wounded female Resistance member. A German soldier is able to shoot the man in the back and he falls to the ground. They then grab the sobbing French woman. Guy is able to get away. The woman is tortured by dunking her head under water in a bath tub. She begs them to let her live, but Gilda's officer decides not to stop a dunking session until after the woman dies. Guy enters a church during choir practice and collapses there.
The Allies are getting much closer to Paris.
London, August 1944. Guy reports to headquarters. There he is surprised to meet with Julian, Gilda's one time boyfriend. He tells Guy that Gilda had contacted him. She is working with British intelligence. Gilda copied important German documents with her camera. He adds: "She couldn't tell you." But now Guy is worried about what the French will do to Gilda for seeming to cooperate with the Germans.
In Paris people in the street shout insults at Gilda. Back in her apartment, her German officer asks her to go back to Germany with him. She tells him: "I don't love you." While they talk, a French sniper in the apartment across the street from Gilda's, shoots and badly wounds the officer. Then Frenchmen push into Gilda's apartment. The officer, still alive, is shot in the head. The blood sprays all over Gilda. They then force Gilda's head down so that her lips are forced onto the officer's bloody face for "one last kiss". She comes up with blood all over and around her lips. The men leave.
In France Guy accompanies the French units as they push toward Paris. When they stop he keeps going on a bicycle. He is desperate to get to Gilda.
The neighbors push into Gilda's apartment and grab her. In the city Guy runs for the safety of a French road block while the Germans try to kill him. Gilda has been forced into a basement where she is being held. From there she can see angry French citizens shearing the hair of a woman accused of collaboration with the Germans. The woman is returned to the basement. She cries and says she only went with enlisted men. She shouts at Gilda that they are going to kill her and it is all Gilda's fault for passing on secrets to German officers.
Frenchmen come down into the basement. The lead man tells some of the others to take the woman with the sheared hair outside. He then tells Gilda that her lover tortured his sister. It took three days for her to die a cruel death. Gilda only says: "You don't understand." He adds that what she is going to get is nothing compared to what his sister got.
Guy came too late. He visits her apartment. There he finds a last letter to him. In the letter Gilda says that when she lost the only two people in her life that she really loved, she thought a lot about it and had a change of heart. That is when she got involved with British intelligence. She ended with the words: "I love you."
Solid, good movie. Charlize Theron as Gilda Bessé, Penélope Cruz as Mia and Stuart Townsend as Guy Malyon were all terrific, but especially great was Charlize Theron. The love affairs of the three are all dealt with during the time of the Spanish Civil War and the run up to World War II. It then continues on to D-Day and the freeing of Paris from German control. So there is quite a bit of history covered in the film, even if mostly indirectly through their effects on the three heroes in the film. Interesting love story and lots of history makes for a damn good movie.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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