Death of a Cyclist (Day 31)

Death of a Cyclist My Opinion: 6.3 || A nifty, efficient thriller with above-average directing touches. The premise is one that’s been repeated many times since, and it’s a good one. One of the protagonists undergoes a transformation that’s a bit forced, and it’s easy to see the ending coming, but it’s brisk, enjoyable ride.

TITLE: Death of a Cyclist (Muerte de un ciclista)
DIRECTOR:  Juan Antonio Bardem
LANGUAGE:  Spanish | COUNTRY:  Spain
YEAR:  1955
PROFILE:  Drama, Thriller | 88 minutes | IMDb (7.8)

SYNOPSIS (Courtesy of IMDb): A couple having an affair strike a bicyclist with their car and do not offer aid out of fear of their relationship being exposed.

Strengths: Bardem sets everything up with great efficiency. The inciting incident occurs about 15 seconds into the movie, and a vise starts to close on our protagonists almost immediately. Although they begin the film doing something hideous, Bardem manages to maintain our sympathy and engagement (even as we hold on to our disapproval). The plot defies expectations at the midpoint, turning away from Double Indemnity style cat-and-mouse games. Rather than the expected story of increasing moral decline, we get something more introspective, which was a pleasant surprise.

Death of a Cyclist

Bardem also pulls off several nice directing flourishes, with interesting scene transitions and good uses of misdirection. Resourceful, lively direction.

Weaknesses: The protagonist, Juan, has a moral epiphany that’s too sudden and poorly explained. It’s a plot device more than a believable human moment. The conversion is driven by his relationship with a student, Matilde, that’s too hastily drawn. It appears from a strange angle, which is nice, but the depth of feeling between them has no real basis and feels contrived.

Death of a Cyclist

Characters/Performances: Lucia Bosé is beautiful on the Ingrid Bergman scale and is a joy to gaze at, but her performance isn’t especially nuanced. Alberto Closas, meanwhile, looks like Robert Donat in Hitchock’s The 39 Steps but has none of Donat’s charisma. (Although, to be fair, that kind of charm would probably have been wrong for this role.) And as a final comparison while I’m at it, Carlos Casaravilla as the resentful blackmailer could be Peter Lorre’s cousin.

Best Moment: The supremely efficient opening is great, but the prize goes to a wordless scene during a flamenco concert, as each of the primary characters becomes increasingly anxious and watchful of the others.

File Under: blackmail, accidents, moral epiphanies, guilt, deception