The Dancer Upstairs (film)

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The Dancer Upstairs
The Dancer Upstairs Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Malkovich
Produced by
Written by Nicholas Shakespeare
Based on The Dancer Upstairs
by Nicholas Shakespeare
Music by
Cinematography José Luis Alcaine
Edited by Mario Battistel
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release date
  • 11 January 2002 (2002-01-11) (Sundance)
  • 6 September 2002 (2002-09-06) (Venice)
  • 20 September 2002 (2002-09-20) (Spain)
  • 2 May 2003 (2003-05-02) (United States)
Running time
133 minutes[1]
  • Spain
  • United States
  • English
  • Quechua
  • Spanish
Box office $5.2 million[2]

The Dancer Upstairs is a 2002 Spanish-American crime thriller film produced and directed by John Malkovich (in his directorial debut), and starring Javier Bardem, Juan Diego Botto and Laura Morante. The film is an adaptation of the book of the same name by Nicholas Shakespeare, who also wrote the screenplay.


Detective Agustín Rejas is tracking the self-styled President Ezequiel, a Marxist-influenced guerrilla waging a brutal terrorist campaign against the corrupt democracy of an unnamed Latin American country. Contrasting with the violence and death in his professional life, Rejas begins to fall for Yolanda - his daughter's beautiful ballet teacher. But she may not be all she appears, and his growing attraction to her brings him in direct conflict with his prey.



The film was shot in Porto, Portugal. The original theatrical release included a quick scene (about 2–3 seconds) of a map of Lima, Peru. This scene is deleted from the DVD release.

A lamppost sign reads: "When I hear the word culture, I reach for my pistol." This is a quotation usually mis-attributed to Nazi leader Hermann Göring.

The seized videotape is labeled "Estado de sitio"; this happens to be the Spanish title for the film State of Siege by Costa Gavras. There turns out to be an execution on the tape. Later, portions of Gavras' film itself are also seen on the tape.

The wisecrack joke about "pubes on a coke can" is a reference to the Judge Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.

Historical basis[edit]

The story is inspired by the Maoist terrorist group in Peru known as the Shining Path. Its leader Abimael Guzmán, who was known by the nom de guerre President Gonzalo, was captured in an apartment above a ballet studio in the capital Lima in 1992. The ballet teacher Yolanda was based on Maritza Garrido Lecca, the woman in whose apartment Guzmán was found. Bardem's character was inspired by Benedicto Jimenez and General Antonio Ketin Vidal, the leading figures responsible for Guzmán's capture.[3]

Awards and accolades[edit]

  • 2002 - Venice International Film Festival
    • Won Rota Soundtrack Award for Alberto Iglesias
  • 2002 - Chicago International Film Festival
    • Nomination for the New Directors Competition at John Malkovich
  • 2004 - Chlotrudis Awards
    • Nomination for Best Actor in Javier Bardem
  • 2004 - Political Film Society
    • Nomination for the PFS Award


External links[edit]