Irish Film Institute (Dublín) / Instituto de cine irlandés (Dublín)
6 Eustace Street, Temple Bar Dublín
Set in the late 1960s in Franco’s Spain, The Sandman tells of Mateo (Hugo Silva), a free spirit who is imprisoned in a psychiatric institution in the province of Extremadura for denouncing a Nationalist officer. It’s clear that this ‘hospital’ is more a squalid prison for society’s undesirables. Despite repeated attempts to crush him, Mateo’s defiance continues to inspire love and admiration amongst the vulnerable patients. One such inmate is Lola (María Valverde), who has been driven mad by the sexual abuse she has suffered. The worldly Mateo is drawn to the heartbroken Lola and their affair leads to a headlong assault on the institution.
A spirited debut feature by José Manuel González, The Sandman is less a political film than a classic tale of doomed innocence set during a time of repressive morality. Valverde and Silva have an arresting chemistry, while the film makes excellent use of the crumbling institution and the wild landscapes of Extremadura to heighten the sense of isolation.