First things first: this isn’t an easy film to watch, unless you enjoy bullfighting. A significant portion of The Moment of Truth‘s running time consists of man vs. livestock action, and it ain’t pretty. The blood runs very, very red, and there’s more shed here than in a Tarantino dream.
There are some terrific wide-screen compositions, both inside and outside the matador’s arena.
If nothing else, this film is as real as it gets. Most major sequences aren’t staged or faked with trick photography of any kind; the players seriously put their lives on the line to confront real bulls on screen. They are simply well-edited, the moments that could not be shot in front of a ten thousand strong wild audience interspersed in with the genuine bullfighting. The cast (most aren’t ‘actors’ in the job sense, though they act as well as RSC-trained veteran) come dangerously close to getting mauled and gored, as they gracefully manoeuvre and evade the animals. Perhaps most striking (though to be expected from this kind of film) is that the bulls themselves are hurt on-screen with the camera lingering on their agony.
The film doesn’t make any moral decisions for us, and does not pass judgement on this sport. The main character, Miguelin, works only for the money – even the celebrity doesn’t sit well with him. His relationship with the bulls is, similarly, never told to us – but rather shown in his reactions and movements around them. It is a film about celebrity and wealth, seen through the lens of sports.
As portrayed in the film, bullfighting on foot became a means for poor, able-bodied men to achieve fame and fortune, similar to the role of boxing in many countries. When asked why he risked his life, one torero reportedly answered, Más cornadas da el hambre (“[There is] more goring from hunger”).
The most outstanding part of the film, for me, was the concept of treating cinemascope (an anamorphic lens series used for shooting widescreen movies) in a documentary, verite way, moving the camera through crowds, extreme closeups, and extreme wide shots. It’s a gut punch to the senses. I was taken back to the arena scenes of Gladiator – much as the toreadors wouldn’t want you to see it that way (they consider it an art) – it is as much a blood thirsty, pugnacious sport as those Antiquity fights (though the bloodlust comes much more from the crowds than from the performers).
The film has a look and style that’s at least halfway like a documentary. Photography is rather pedestrian-looking, and there are a lot of distant shots. It looks incredibly gritty and real, and though we are part of the mass of spectators at times, we actually occupy a much more intimate position within Miguelin’s circle.