The Old Man Who Read Love Stories

Synopsis: A man is forced to confront a dangerous female jaguar and his own past through the sacrificial killing of the beast he has grown to love.
Genre: Adventure, Drama
Director(s): Rolf de Heer
Production: Océan Films
  2 wins & 15 nominations.
115 min

The tiny outpost of El Idilio

was so remote that it might

be said

it was at the end of the earth.

In truth, it was far up a river.

A distant tributary in the great

Amazonian system

deep in a jungle whose frontiers

may never be drawn.

Just upstream lived Antonio Bolivar,

alone in a hut of his own


on land of his own choosing.

Antonio guessed he was aged

more than 60,

but the few inhabitants

of El Idilio

simply called him "Old Man".

As a young man,

Antonio had left the mountains of

his birth with his wife, Dolores,

to help colonize the Amazonian


The government was promising

large tracts of land

and plentiful technical help

to the would-be settlers.

After three weeks of travelling,

they were put ashore at a bend

in the river.

They were assigned two

hectares of jungle,

a couple of machetes and a bag,

empty of promises.

Antonio remained in the jungle

for almost 40 years.

Finally emerging from the jungle

and settling in El Idilio,

Antonio Bolivar discovered

he possessed the antidote

against the poison of old age.

"One final time..."

He could read.

"... the lovers joined together

in a tor-rid

embrace... torrid embrace...



clasping each other


their hands...


their mouths...


Their hands searching, huh?

Searching for what?

And why are their mouths


I can guess why.

"It was

a kiss

of im-pass-ioned


"A kiss...

to re-mem-ber


lives... by".

That's a strange way to end

a book.

"A kiss to remember their

lives by".

I don't remember my life

by any kisses.

Not even with my wife.

Antonio and Dolores

had known each other as children,

living in a mountain

village near the Embaboran


They had been betrothed

as thirteen-year-olds.

Not that, Antonio.

Those kisses are sinful,

I can feel it.

In that green hell of the jungle,

Dolores didn't survive two years.

Not many kisses with you,

were there, Dolores?

She was carried off

by a burning fever,

racked with malaria.

"It was a kiss...

of impassioned intensity...

impassioned intensity...




the people...

don't kiss at all.

That's the impassioned intensity,

but no kissing.

Antonio Bolivar...

you are not one of us.

But you are like us.

That's why we want you with us.

That's why...

you must go away some time.

So that... we can feel

the sadness...

of not being able to talk to you.


"It was a kiss

of impassioned intensity...

A kiss

to remember

their lives by".

I think I understand.

The rains were coming,

that time of year when El Idilio's

isolation was even more complete.

The riverboat that visited

every few months

wouldn't now return after this trip

until the wet season was over.

That left El Idilio's

only civil servant,

his Excellency the Mayor,

in a temper even more foul

than usual.


The Mayor's chief occupation

was managing his beer supply.

Tell Josefina to get me

another beer!

Seated in his office, he would

eke out each

bottle by taking a sip at a time,

for he knew that once his supply

was exhausted,

life would become even more


Down on the wharf,

Doctor Rubicondo Loachamin's


travelling dental clinic

was open for business.

Does that hurt?

The good doctor's portable

chair was quite

an institution along the rivers.

It's supposed to hurt.

And whose fault is that?


Speak up.

Oh, of course, you can't.

Well, it's the government's fault,

get that into your thick skull.

All of you thick-skulled no-hopers,

it's the government's fault

that your teeth are rotten.

It's the government's fault

that you've got


What are you monkeys gawping at?

Jibaro have good teeth, eating

plenty monkey meat.

One day...

you'll fall into my clutches!

Then you'll thank me for it,

just like this poor devil

will when I'm...

Let... let go, you ninny!

...when I'm finished with him.

There you go.

The mouth of a new-born babe.

Got the rum, Old Man?

There's a canoe coming!

Ignore it. It's probably some

bloodsucker from the government

come to collect more taxes.

There's two of them!

There's a sick gringo on the way!

Someone get the Slimy Toad!

The gods have accepted you,

Antonio Bolivar.

Few who are bitten ever survive.

Although you are not one of us,

we welcome you to stay

as one of us.

Snap out of it, Old Man.

That's no sick gringo...

Mr. Mayor.

Where did you find him?

I don't suppose these jungle

men understand.

Up the river. Two days.

Turn him over.

You killed him.

- Not kill him.

- It's obvious. Machete, slash, dead.

You Captain, you'll be taking

a body and four

prisoners back.

All right. Get going,

we'll have a little

interview in my office.


Despite my deepest respect

for the authorities,

your Excellency,

I don't think that you're shitting

in the pot.

What are you talking about?

- What does he know about it?

- Only what I can see.

You see how the flesh is torn

in even strips,

deep in the jaw and shallow

lower down?

You see how there are

four gashes, not one?

So what are you getting at?

A four-bladed machete?

Claw marks.

It's a jaguar.

A big one.

- Smell it.

- I can see it's putrid.

Bend down and smell.

Don't be afraid of death

and maggots.

- Smells of death and maggots.

- Smells like cat piss.

This gringo was killed

by a female jaguar.

She pissed on him to mark him so

that other animals wouldn't eat him.

Superstitious rubbish.

These savages robbed and killed him,

then sprinkled him with cat piss...

They'll stop at nothing.

All right, your Excellency,

I think we've solved it.

Don't you dare move!

This man is an American citizen!

The Americans

have declared war

for less than this.

Let them go.

They and understand.

This bastard gringo killed

these cubs. Look at the bullet holes

in these little skins.

And what happened to the father?

He would have been caring for them

while the mother was out hunting.

That's what these animals do.

Look at the size of those claw

marks on this gringo.

She would have found him

by the smell of her

babies in his pack.

Let them go.

So you're not dead yet,

Antonio Bolivar.

It doesn't look like it.

- I'm not stinking either.

- I didn't know

you were a detective,

Old Man, you certainly

shut his Excellency up.

Dangerous thing to do.

But he deserves it. I hope

that one day

the Jibaro put a dart

through his head.

I think his wife will kill him first.

She's storing up the hatred.

- These things take time.

- Oh, I'm sorry.

I completely forgot with all this

dead man business.

Tell Josefina things are a little

hot for me right now.

Give me ten minutes.

Not like the old days...

You know,

I rue the day that you started

to read, Old Man.

Cost me the best lay

this side of the river.


- Name?

- Antonio Bolivar.

- Can you read?

- Don't make me laugh.

He's practically a heathen.

Can you?

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Claude Cohen

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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