The Old Man Who Read Love Stories

YEAR: 2000


Shot in French Guyana in 1999 but not released in Australia until 2004, the entire history of this film exemplified the many problems that come about trying to make "un-natural co-productions". The source material was a wonderful short novel by Chilean writer Luis Sepulveda, set anywhere in what might be called Amazonia.

It then somehow became a French/Australian/Dutch/Spanish co-production...four languages to be dealt with, actors and crew required in some measure from each country and then a post-production so fraught with politics that the film barely saw the light of day. That the film itself manages to keep its integrity through all of this is a testament to the script and the actors rather than most of the many producers and the financiers.


In the town of El Idilio, buried deep in the jungle on the bank of a small Amazon tributary, lives the old man, Antonio Bolivar. A simple man, Antonio has lived most of his life in the jungle and knows it intimately. Late in life, he has discovered that he can read. He reads romantic tales with great passion and shares this preoccupation with a local servant girl, Josefina. Together, through their common interest, they are falling in love.

The visiting Dentist, a swaggering lothario with questionable skills, becomes Antonio's confidant, procuring romantic novels and encouraging Antonio's advances toward Josefina.

But all is not tranquil in this remote, uncivilized corner of the world. Outsiders have intruded, killing a jaguar's cubs and upsetting the fragile balance between man and nature. Now, seeking her revenge, the enraged mother jaguar begins killing humans, apparently at random. El Idilio's Mayor, Slimy Toad, decides something must be done and organizes a hunting party.

Suddenly, the universe is a more complicated place than Bubby had thought. Theories of existence and behaviour are overthrown in a wild revolution that lead Bubby to seeing "Outside" for the first time.

During the hunt, Antonio reviews his life: a deadly snakebite which very nearly cost him his life; his survival thanks to members of an Indian tribe who take him in and make him one of their own; the bond of friendship he develops with the sure-footed and open-hearted tribesman, Nushino; Nushino's death, after which Antonio is expelled from the tribe and forced to return to his own people.

As Antonio and the jaguar circle and approach each other with great stealth, the hunt becomes a prism through which Antonio reconciles his past and stares into the face of his own fear.


Antonio Bolivar - Richard Dreyfuss

The Mayor - Timothy Spall

The Dentist - Hugo Weaving

Josefina - Cathy Tyson

Nushino - Victor Bottenbley

Juan - Frederico Celada

Manuel - Luis Hostalot

Onecen - Guillermo Toledo


Writer/Director - Rolf de Heer

Based on the novel by Luis Sepulveda

Producer - Michelle de Broca

Executive Producer - Ernst Goldschmidt

Co-Producer (Australia) - Julie Ryan

Co-Producer (the Netherlands) - Eddy Wijngaarde

Co-Producer (Spain) - Inaki Nunez

Line Producer - Caroline Hewitt

Casting - Karen Lindsay-Stewart

Director of Photography - Denis Lenoir

Production Designer - Gil Parrondo

Production Designer - Pierre Voisin

Costume Designer - Bernadette Corstens

Costume Designer - Ellen Lens

Film Editor - Tania Nehme

Sound Designer - James Currie

Composer - Graham Tardif