Ghosts of the past

Director Milos Forman casts Natalie Portman in multiple roles in his Inquisition film

July 24, 2007 09:59
2 minute read.
goya film 88  928

goya film 88 928. (photo credit: Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


The parents who raised Oscar-winning director Milos Forman were Protestants, but both perished in Nazi concentration camps. The director's adoptive father distributed "forbidden" books to his students during the Nazi occupation and was sent to a concentration camp. Amazingly, he was returned to Prague to stand trial and was even acquitted, but nevertheless he was shipped to Buchenwald where he perished in 1944. A year earlier, Forman's mother, Anna, suffered the same fate: After being arrested, she was sent to Auschwitz and died there. "Nobody knows why," Forman told JTA, speaking from his Connecticut home. "It was like the Inquisition. They grabbed people and nobody knew why." The analogy is deliberate, an intentional link to his latest film, Goya's Ghosts. It's a multi-layered story, a beautifully photographed art tour and a history lesson with multiple helpings of an impressive Natalie Portman. The year is 1792, and while most of Europe has thrown off the shackles of the Roman Catholic Church's Holy Inquisition, it still wields its power in Spain. Caught in its toils is Ines, played by Portman, the daughter of a wealthy Christian businessman whose lovely face has made her a favorite model of the great court painter Francisco Goya. Ines runs afoul of zealous Church spies, who finger her as a "Judaizer," a forced convert to Christianity who "relapses" into observing Jewish rituals when she declines a plate of pork at a public inn. Her nemesis, torturer and eventual seducer is chief inquisitor Brother Lorenzo, impressively portrayed by Spanish actor Javier Bardem. Ultimately the inquisitor is disgraced, but not before fathering Ines' daughter. When Napoleon conquers Spain in 1808, the Inquisition is abolished, the prison doors are thrown open and Ines emerges as a half-deranged hag. She undertakes a desperate search for her illegitimate daughter, who has become the beautiful prostitute Alicia, also portrayed by Portman in a remarkable double, or rather triple, performance. The recently released film is the latest for Forman, a Czech native whose biological father was Jewish, in a directing career that also includes One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, Ragtime and, most recently, The People vs. Larry Flynt in 1996. "I believe that the most important conflict in the history of mankind is between the individual and institutions," Forman said. "Man creates institutions, which then assume total power and believe that they own man. That's the theme of Goya's Ghosts." Forman doubts this struggle will ever end. "After each war, after each mass killing, we all scream 'Never again,'" he said. "Then we do it again because we never learn from history." (JTA)

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Sarah Silverman
August 26, 2014
Jewish women take home gold at 2014 Emmys