Simon Bolivar lived a life of such variety and consequence that no single movie could hope to do justice to it. Soldier, visionary, lover (of many, many women), political theoretician, inspirational figure, mercurial in temperament, capable of great tenderness and great cruelty, he was arguably the most significant figure ever to emerge from Latin America.
In a series of extraordinary military campaigns in the 19th century, he liberated much of South America from Spanish rule, from his native Venezuela to Peru.
In “The Liberator,” director Alberto Arvelo, a Venezuelan like Bolivar, touches many of the essential bases in Bolivar’s story. But, perhaps inevitably, he is only able to achieve little more than mere touches.
Arvelo’s “The Liberator” is a handsome picture — greeting-card pretty in fact — filmed largely in Spain and also in Venezuela, full of lovely vistas and elegant period costumes. It spends too much time at the beginning with gauzy scenes in which he woos and beds the woman who would briefly become his only wife (María Valverde), and slights such consequential figures in his life as his best friend, Gen. Sucre (Erich Wildpret), and his longtime lover (and one-time rescuer from assassins), Manuela Saenz (Juana Acosta).
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As the title character, Édgar Ramírez, also a Venezuelan, is conventionally handsome but lacks the angular features of the man seen in paintings of Bolivar.
More significantly, his performance lacks a sense of personal magnetism that could make one believe this is a man who could, as Bolivar did, go into a jungle with a mere handful of followers and emerge from it as the head of a liberating army, having attracted a mass following by sheer force of his personality and his fervent eloquence.
Soren Andersen: firstname.lastname@example.org