Scen.: Juan Bustillo Oro, José Manuel Cordero. F.: Agustín Jiménez. M.: Juan Bustillo Oro. Scgf.: Mariano Rodríguez Granada, Carlos Toussaint. Mus.: Max Urbán. Int.: Víctor Urruchúa (Juan), Carlos Villatoro (Javier), Beltrán de Heredia (priore), Emma Roldán (Gertrudis), Magda Haller (Ana). Prod.: Producciones Proa S. A. DCP. D.: 85’. Bn.
The beginnings of sound cinema in Mexico in the early 1930s saw the birth of a strange new genre that might reasonably be called ‘Mexican Gothic’. Arguably, in part, a more subtle and obscure response to the violence had been imprinted on the collective psyche by the Revolution, films like the Spanish-language remake of Tod Browning’s Drácula (1931), Ramón Peón’s La llorona (1933), Fernando de Fuentes’ El fantasma del convento (1934) or, indeed, Juan Bustillo Oro’s Dos monjes paved the way for a new type of cinema, which dealt with paranoia and repressed fear through films that broke with established norms. The genre went on to take flight in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, with directors like Fernando Méndez, Rogelio A. González and, later, Carlos Enrique Taboada and Juan López Moctezuma.
Bustillo Oro’s own career spanned thirty-eight years, both as a director/producer/screenwriter, and also as an author of crime and noir short stories. Dos monjes remains one of the most significant and representative early works of the genre. The film tells the story of two monks who are embroiled in a complex psychological struggle for the love of the same woman, and of their eventual unravelling. The influence of German expressionism is again evident in the film’s moody, nuanced use of black and white, and the photography of celebrated Mexican photographer Agustín Jiménez, which together create a strange, distorted atmosphere. French surrealist and writer André Breton was reportedly taken with the film, which he saw during a visit to Mexico, dubbing it a “bold and unusual experiment”.
Daniela Michel e Chlöe Roddick