Film / The Last Circus
It's showtime.
Sergio: "Why are you a clown?"
Javier: "What about you?"
Sergio: "Because if I weren't a clown, I'd be a murderer."
Javier: "Me too."

Original Spanish title: Balada triste de trompeta (Sad Trumpet Ballad)

A 2011 Black Comedy directed by Álex de la Iglesia. In 1937, a clown is forcibly recruited by the militia to serve in the Spanish Civil War where he manages to massacre an entire platoon with a machete. Years later in 1973 against the backdrop of Franco-era Spain, his son Javier follows in his father's footsteps, working as a Sad Clown. There he falls in love with the beautiful acrobat Natalia and in the process runs amok of her abusive lover, Sergio, the Happy Clown. A twisted love triangle ensues develops between the two clowns that escalates into insanity.

Of all of Álex de la Iglesia's films (which include such twisted and weird fare as Accion Mutante and El Dia de La Bestia), this is probably the darkest and most gritty. And that's saying something.

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Advice Backfire: Javier's father laments he can only ever hope to be a sad clown, since he's had his childhood robbed thanks to the civil war. However, he advises Javier that he can gain solace from his pain and be a happy clown if he can get revenge. The backfire comes when Javier decides to get said revenge by sabotaging a prison work camp his father was forced to work in with dynamite. Hilarity ensues.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Taken to the extreme. Natalia claims constantly that she's with Sergio because she's afraid of what he'd do if she left him... but she seems to show genuine sexual excitement from the abuse.
  • Asshole Victim: Sergio. He lives, but at a price.
  • Ax-Crazy: Javier becomes this halfway through.
  • Bad Humor Truck: Javier drives around in an ice cream truck.
  • Bastard Boyfriend: Sergio. Oh so very much.
  • Black Comedy: If it were any darker, it'd suck the light out of the room when you played it on your TV.
  • Black and Grey Morality: By the end of the film, both of the main characters are pretty deranged. Also applies to the overarching theme of the film as it relates to the Spanish Civil War; as one reviewer pointed out, "Republicans? Nationalists? What's the difference? They're both clowns."
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Javier
  • Butt-Monkey: Javier's role as the Sad Clown falls under this, but it could easily apply to his entire life.
  • Captive Date: Javier takes Natalia on one after he snaps.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Javier does this after waking up from his nightmare at the hospital.
  • Crapsack World: This being Franco-led Spain, it's a given.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Both Javier and Sergio go through it, badly. Sergio in particular is a very interesting example: the disfigurement of his face destroys his ability to make children laugh, whcih was the only thing he was good at and his one redeeming quality. This makes him bounce from the Despair Event Horizon... through the Moral Event Horizon.
  • Destructive Romance: The Movie.
  • Deuteragonist: Sergio to Javier.
  • Domestic Abuser: Sergio is this to Natalia.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Javier would rather Natalia hate him than feel sorry for him.
  • Downer Ending
  • Eye Scream: The evil colonel loses his eye in the beginning of the film.
  • Facial Horror: Both Javier and Sergio.
  • Fan Disservice: Some nice full-frontal nudity courtesy of Javier.
  • Fanservice: Natalia.
  • Femme Fatale: Natalia. There is a slight hint of self-indulgence in the way she sets Javier and Sergio against each other. It does NOT end well for her, though.
  • Glasgow Grin: Sergio gets half of one after the beating he gets from Javier.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Although both get pretty damn mutilated...
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: During Javier's self-mutilation.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Franco himself makes an appearance. And gets bitten by Javier once he goes mad.
  • Infant Immortality
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: What Sergio and Natalia's relationship revolves around. Natalia claims she's afraid of Sergio... but every time she gets beaten by him, she gets really, REALLY horny.
  • Jumped at the Call: Javier has a vision of Natalia as the Virgin Mary, telling him to become her Angel of Death.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Sergio is taunted by a group of small children after being disfigured.
  • The Last Title: The English title.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Or crazy, at least.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: See Fan Disservice.
  • Monster Clown: Both protagonists to a degree, although in Javier's case it's more physical, since he's more broken than bad inside. Sergio is full-blown Monster Clown, though.
  • Mood Whiplash: The film is all over the place.
  • Morality Pet: Natalia serves as this for both clowns. Ironic, considering she's singlehandedly ended up manipulating both into becoming murderous on her behalf. Sergio also shows genuine affection for kids, pretty much his only redeeming quality.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: A VERY nasty wake-up call for Natalia, when she sees the insane physical and emotional damage she caused by inciting Javier and Sergio to go at each other.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Javier has one of Sergio killing his father.
  • Pet the Dog: Sergio seems to genuinely like kids, even if he disregards their safety.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Natalia. Finally admitting her love for Javier is what leads to her demise.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The entire film is a metaphor for Franco-era Spain as well as the Spanish Civil War.
  • Sad Clown: Javier's whole shtick.
  • The Straight Man: Javier to Sergio's happy clown antics.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: No one accomplishes anything in the end. The film ends with both clowns arrested, and Natalia and the Ghost Rider's final stunts end in their own demises.
  • Shout-Out: The movie is similar in plot and theme to Pagliacci. A very twisted and horrifying version of Pagliacci. However, the roles of protagonist and antagonist are reversed: it is the lover who is the protagonist and the cuckolded spouse who is the antagonist.
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: In the middle, maaaaaybe inching a little towards horror.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Javier roughly pushes a child away at a diner to get to the jukebox and later points his gun at another. Nothing happens, though.
  • You Just Told Me: Happens when Sergio interrogates the Ghost Rider as to the whereabouts of Javier.