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The Tuesday Portrait: Fernando Torres

Posted By Brian Phillips On April 9, 2008 @ 5:57 pm In Portraits | 8 Comments

Malarial lowlands. Brown mountains rigid in the distance, like the bones of the corpse of the sky. Wind, like a disease, swelling on the fens: mixing the shadows, sifting the sedge, glimmering along the grassy pools. There is a moon in the bruise-colored air: so it must be twilight. It might have been any time at all. A sinister note takes root in the bassoons, grows and, softly, blossoms in the strings.

[Walt Disney Pictures Presents]

A path came through here once. It comes through still; but the winding, compact earth, molded above the groundwater, has not been walked in years. At every turn it is broken, crumbled, sunk. Eerie, distant calls, as of strange birds or animals, may hold a clue to the fate of whoever made it.

[A Buena Vista Studios Film]

How the horse keeps his feet—for there is a horse, a weary, gray creature, plodding his way slowly through the fen—is a mystery, for the ground is treacherous, the light dim. But he does, and his rider, a slim figure hidden by a cloak, clearly knows to trust him. The reins are slack, and as low as the horse’s head hangs, the rider’s head is lower and heavier still.

[Produced in Association with Silver Screen Partners IV]

The shattered path leads them to a crossroads. The horse pauses and looks around, doubt on his dumb, long-suffering face. The rider comes back to himself, and sits up straight, drawing back his hood to reveal fair hair and pale, boyish skin. One path leads further into the mire; the other, rising along a tufted ridge, leads out of the murk of the fen and toward the still-distant foothills. The youth pats the horse on his side, and the gray beast turns toward the highlands.

[Fernando]

As they go the ground becomes steeper and rockier. The boy dismounts and walks before the horse, leading him slowly by the reins. He seems alert now, his bright eyes scanning the terrain, his hand straying toward the sword hilt at his belt. Here the sunset is bloodier, and as he withdraws his cloak, the red light gleams on the slender scales of his armor. A blue cross shows on his surcoat. Something faint and triumphant happens in the background of the horns.

[Featuring the Voice Talents of Matthew Broderick, Juliette Binoche, Dakota Fanning, John Goodman, Patrick Stewart, Maggie Smith, James Rebhorn, Angela Bassett, and Jewel]

Cymbals crash as the boy rounds the corner of a high ledge and looks up, in wonder and terror, at what he now is able to see. A broken castle, flaring at the heavens, huge chunks knocked out of the walls; a moat of molten lava, spitting and churning; a long, narrow staircase, carved out of the rock, leading toward the open maw where the drawbridge used to be.

[Directed by John Lasseter]

The boy gulps: and now we see how young he really is, how slight under his improbable armor. The horse, with unfeigned anxiety, shakes his head and begins backing up. The boy’s hand is as slim as a girl’s on the reins. He holds them firmly, but his voice shakes as he says, “Come on, Champion. We-we’ve come too far to give up.” He sets his face toward the castle, and a new determination—youthful in its way too, but stronger for being more innocent—hardens at the corners of his mouth.

[Songs Composed by Jewel and Bernie Taupin]

Tentatively, he begins making his way up the steps. Thunder crashes somewhere, and the horse, nervously, shuts his eyes. The boy leads him on. The dragon will come soon enough, and the princess, and the quest that only he can fulfill, the quest that will take him to distant kingdoms and prove his lofty destiny. But for now, it is only the boy, his practical steed, and the sword that looks too big for him, staring into the black gulf of the castle arch ahead. The choice is now, whether to retreat or to go forward. As the strings swell impossibly, he steps across the threshold, and the camera pulls back swiftly, spinning, to show us the castle, bent like a claw in the red sunset, looming on the cliff’s edge over all the blighted land.


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