One of the more extreme portrayals of female masochism, “Behind God’s Back” presents a challenge for viewers of both sexes. Helmer Pablo Llorca (“Hanging Gardens,” “The Interior Scar”) skillfully depicts the madness of a woman in love, whose meeting with a rakish gambler sets off a long self-destruction. Like other sad stories about abused women who participate in their own downfall, pic is bound to ruffle feminists while it will merely depress the rest of the audience. Strong perfs from the two leads keep the temperature high, even when pic’s pace flags, and could steer this Spanish entry into some overseas markets.
Pretty but practical Rosa (Isabel Ampudia) works in a coffee shop, while saving to open a market stall with her fiance, a hard-working young butcher. Everything changes the day that Ivan (Alberto Jimenez), a drifter with liquid eyes, invites her dancing. She leaves her boyfriend to walk on the wild side and open a bar with Ivan.
Satisfied in bed, Rosa doesn’t flinch as his faults come to light: He gambles, deals drugs and sleeps around. She just keeps handing him her money. When he runs afoul of a local underworld boss, she finances his escape.
In Llorca’s straightforward storytelling, Ampudia injects a note of mystery into Rosa’s psychology. Her Mona Lisa smile hides all pain, which pic suggests she may actually enjoy. Jimenez leaves Ivan’s feelings open to interpretation in first part of film, but turns into a true baddie later, not only sliding into the mud but cruelly destroying the nurturing woman who loves him.
To pay her bank loans on his behalf, Rosa sets up business as a madam of apartments for prostitutes. Business thrives and she turns into a lady, a wealthy businesswoman who still inexplicably pays for Ivan’s huge gambling debts. Story rolls on, upping the ante at each plot turn. Every time a way out appears for Rosa, she refuses it for more mistreatment from the whoring, abusive bum.
Soberly lensed by Crespo Perez, pic segues smoothly from working class haunts and dogfights to classy gambling dens. It could benefit from a good trimming of overlong scenes that slow down the action.