Kiss of the Spider Woman (film)

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Kiss of the Spider Woman
Kiss Of The Spiderwoman.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Héctor Babenco
Produced by Francisco Ramalho Jr.
David Weisman
Screenplay by Leonard Schrader
Based on Kiss of the Spider Woman
by Manuel Puig
Music by Nando Carneiro
John Neschling
Cinematography Rodolfo Sánchez
Edited by Mauro Alice
Distributed by Embrafilme (Brazil)
Island Alive
FilmDallas Pictures (US)
Release date
  • May 13, 1985 (1985-05-13) (Cannes)
  • July 26, 1985 (1985-07-26)
Running time
121 minutes[1]
Country Brazil
United States
  • English
  • French
  • Portuguese
  • German
Box office $17,005,229[2]

Kiss of the Spider Woman (Portuguese: O Beijo da Mulher-Aranha) is a 1985 Brazilian-American drama film directed by Argentine-born Brazilian director Héctor Babenco,[3] and adapted by Leonard Schrader from the Manuel Puig novel of the same name. William Hurt, Raúl Juliá, Sônia Braga, José Lewgoy, and Milton Gonçalves star in the leading roles.[4]


The film tells of two very different men who share a prison cell in Brazil during the Brazilian military government: Valentin Arregui, who is imprisoned (and has been tortured) due to his activities on behalf of a leftist revolutionary group, and Luis Molina, a pederast in prison for having sex with an underage boy.

Molina passes the time by recounting memories from one of his favorite films, a wartime romantic thriller that's also a Nazi propaganda film. He weaves the characters into a narrative meant to comfort Arregui and distract him from the harsh realities of political imprisonment and the separation from his lover, Marta. Arregui allows Molina to penetrate some of his defensive self and opens up. Despite Arregui occasionally snapping at Molina over his rather shallow views of political cinema, an unlikely friendship develops between the two.

As the story develops, it becomes clear that Arregui is being poisoned by his jailers to provide Molina with a chance to befriend him, and that Molina is spying on Arregui on behalf of the Brazilian secret police. Molina has namely been promised a parole if he succeeds in obtaining information that will allow the secret police to find the revolutionary group's members.

Molina falls in love with Arregui, and Arregui responds after a fashion, culminating in a physical consummation of their love on Molina's last night in prison. Molina is granted parole in the hopes Arregui will reveal information about his contacts when he knows Molina will be out of prison. Arregui provides Molina with a telephone number and message for his comrades. Molina at first refuses to take the number, fearing the consequences of treason, but he relents, and he and Arregui bid farewell with a kiss.

In the final scenes, Molina calls the telephone number, and a meeting is arranged with the revolutionary group. But the secret police have had Molina under surveillance, and a gun battle ensues, with the revolutionaries, assuming Molina has betrayed them, shooting him. As he wanders the streets wounded, the policemen catch up with him and demand that he disclose the telephone number in exchange for them taking him to the hospital for treatment, but Molina refuses and succumbs to his wounds. On the orders of the homophobic police chief (Milton Gonçalves), the policemen dump Molina's body in a rubbish pit and fabricate a story about his death and involvement with the revolutionary group.

Meanwhile, back in the prison Arregui is being treated after being tortured once again. As the doctor administers him morphine to help him sleep, risking his job in the process, Arregui escapes into a dream where he is on a tropical island with Marta.



The story features a "film within a film", featuring Luis Molina episodically telling Valentin Arregui the plot of a fictional film called Her Real Glory ostensibly produced in Germany during the Second World War by the Nazis.


The film is based on the 1976 novel El beso de la mujer araña (Kiss of the Spider Woman) by Manuel Puig. The Argentinian author was the first to adapt his own novel as a stage play.

A Broadway musical of the same name also based on the same story, was produced in 1993.


Critical response[edit]

The film received positive reviews. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives it a rating of 88% based on reviews from 24 critics.[6]

Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half stars out of four, calling it a "film of insights and surprises" and remarking that "the performances are wonderful."[7] James Berardinelli gave Kiss of the Spider Woman three stars out of four, calling it "a fascinating character study." Reviewing the film in 2009, Berardinelli claimed that it "has lost none of its power over the years," and felt that it was more deserving of the Best Picture Academy Award than Out of Africa.[8]


William Hurt won the Academy Award for Best Actor. The film was also nominated for Best Picture (the first independent film to do so), Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Hurt also won Best Actor at the BAFTA Awards, the 1985 Cannes Film Festival[9] and several other festivals. The film was awarded the inaugural Golden Space Needle award from the Seattle International Film Festival.[10]


External links[edit]