Not on Your Life

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The executioner
ElVerdugo'63.jpg
Poster
Directed by Luis García Berlanga
Produced by Naga Films
Zebra Films
Written by Rafael Azcona
Starring Nino Manfredi
Pepe Isbert
Emma Penella
José Luis López Vázquez
Cinematography Tonino Delli Colli
Edited by Alfonso Santacana
Release date(s)
  • 1963 (1963)
Running time 90 minutes
Country Spain
Italy
Language Spanish
Screenshot

Not on your Life is a 1963 Spanish black comedy film directed by Luis García Berlanga. Its original Spanish title is El Verdugo, which means "The Executioner". It is widely considered one of the masterpieces of Spanish cinema.

Plot[edit]

The story starts with the main character (an old executioner in Spain in the early 60's) approaching retirement age. As his profession is quite rare, he (a very gentle and nice man, caring, and proud of traditions) begins to worry about who might take his place when he retires. He has a daughter, but, unfortunately, she seems doomed to perpetual "spinsterhood": as soon as any prospective groom learns about her dad and her dad's "trade", he runs away from her, scared. However, a new character enters: the local undertaker, a young handsome man who has exactly the same problem... No girl wants him given his profession. So, you have the woman whom almost nobody would marry and the man whom almost nobody would marry. Obviously, they are meant for each other and soon get married.

Overview[edit]

El Verdugo was the eighth feature film written and directed by Luis García Berlanga in collaboration with his longtime associate, Rafael Azcona. The story pivots upon the fate of a pleasant, if somewhat timid, young undertaker whose dream is to go to Germany and become a mechanic. This dream is thwarted when he happens to meet the executioner in a prison where both of them are plying their trade. In spite of the aversion that the young man (and everyone else) feels for the executioner, he not only ends up marrying the executioner's daughter, but even takes over his father-in-law's business.

El Verdugo is a farce or domestic comedy filled with macabre touches and scenes of black humor in which the taboos associated with death are transgressed. Even the actual mode of execution is the subject of morbid jokes as the executioner, who garrots his victims, measures the neck size of his future son-in-law. The film is punctuated with these bits of gallows humor as well as with comic reversals that take the audience by surprise. A fine example of this occurs at the end of the movie when the young executioner is carried kicking and screaming like the victim into the prison where he will perform his first execution.

Berlanga's irreverent treatment of death is symptomatic of a tendency found in all of his movies, to send up pomposity and pretensions, and to deflate generally accepted values and beliefs. In one sense, the film is about two outcasts, the undertaker and the executioner's daughter, both of whom are avoided by everyone. When they join together, it is with the hope of having a better life, but as Berlanga demonstrates, these hopes cannot be realized. Like other protagonists in Berlanga's film, the undertaker becomes caught up in a destiny which he did not choose. He is a victim of innocent concessions made along the way that ultimately lead him to be sentenced to his fate of becoming the executioner. He is the true victim, the one who is strangled in a web of circumstances beyond his control, caught up in the system of justice and retribution that is all encompassing. In the context of Franco's Spain, the ideological dimensions of this message are that as the executioner tells his son-in-law, where there's a law, someone has to pleasantly or not enforce it.

Cast[edit]

Awards[edit]

Director Luis García Berlanga won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Venice Film Festival for the film. At that moment, Francoist Spain was under international pressure because of the death sentence for the Communist leader Julián Grimau. The Spanish ambassador to Italy protested the projection of this "Communist" film.

Box office and reception[edit]

The film took an estimated gross of ESP 4,107,300 in Spain and there were some 32,907 in cinemas across the country.

External links[edit]