Film: The Spanish Inn

"I'm like Europe, I'm a real mess!"

The Spanish Inn (L'Auberge espagnole) is a film by Cédric Klapisch released in 2002. The title refers to a French phrase: an "auberge espagnole" is a messy place.

Xavier (Romain Duris) is a Parisian graduate student who needs to earn a degree in Spanish in order to get a cushy job at the Finance Ministry. He applies to the ERASMUS exchange program, and arrives in Barcelona. With no place to go, he crashes on the sofa of a couple he met in the plane, but eventually finds an apartment, a cramped and messy flat shared by a bunch of foreign students.

Each of them comes from a different country—Wendy is British, Alessandro is Italian, Isabelle is Belgian, Lars is Danish, Soledad is Spanish and Tobias is German—making the apartment a microcosm of the EU.

A sequel, The Russian Dolls, was made in 2005, and shows how Xavier and his former flatmates have turned out five years later.

The trilogy ends in 2013 with Chinese Puzzle and shows Xavier struggling with others problems like his separation, giving a child to his lesbian friend via surrogacy and immigrating to New York.


Contains examples of:

  • Amicable Exes: Xavier and Martine in the sequels until they go back together.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Wendy's brother William is a loutish oaf who gets on everyone's nerves. In the sequel he is somewhat better.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: Xavier in the sequel, sort of. He does have a REALLY hairy chest though.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Averted. One day Lars's ex-girlfriend shows up at the flat with her baby and tells him he's the father. It doesn't bring them back together, and sends him into a deep funk.
  • Better as Friends: Isabelle and Xavier.
    Isabelle: "Pity you aren't a girl!"
  • Bilingual Bonus: Understanding French and Spanish helps.
    • If you can't tell the difference between Spanish and Catalan, the scene where Isabelle asks to her professor to teach in Spanish rather than Catalan may be, well, weird.
  • Billing Displacement: on the American DVD, Audrey Tautou is front and center and her name is the only one that appears. This is despite the fact that Martine appears for only about 10 minutes or so in the entirety of the film. Presumably this is because Audrey Tautou is the most familiar French actress to American audiences
  • Butch Lesbian: Isabelle.
  • The Cameo: Lars, Soledad, Alessandro, and Tobias in the sequel.
  • Citizenship Marriage: In order to most easily stay in New York and be with his kids, Xavier is told by his lawyer to find an American girl and get married to her. When he saves a Chinese cab driver who'd been beaten up by driving his cab to the hospital, the cab driver asks if there's anything he could do to help. Xavier somewhat jokingly mentions that he needs to get married, and conveniently enough the cab driver has an American niece, Nancy, who is amenable to the plan. At the end of the movie Xavier says that he'll find Martine an American so that she can stay as well.
  • The Couch
  • The Ditz: Anne-Sophie.
  • Dream Sequence: When Xavier goes in for a brain scan.
  • Eagle Land: sort of a Type 2, in that the flatmates (particularly Xavier) seem to have a mild contempt for Bruce the American and think he's an idiot, but we're never really shown this to have any rational basis
    • The third movie, set largely in New York City, averts this trope largely, except in that Xavier needs to work under-the-table jobs and do a Citizenship Marriage in order to stay in the US.
  • Embarrassing Cover Up: William rescues his sister by pretending he was the one in bed with her lover when her regular boyfriend shows up without notice.
    • Receives a callback in the third movie when Isabelle's partner Ju (who is also Xavier's landlord) calls him to tell him that INS is planning on visiting his apartment to prove that he's actually living with the woman he married for a Citizenship Marriage, right after Isabelle came by to borrow the keys so she could use his apartment as a love nest for her girl on the side, causing Xavier to have to make a similar mad dash as in the first film.
  • Everybody Smokes: Pretty much. And spliffs at least as often as cigarettes, too.
  • Everyone Is Single: Averted, but considering how casually they cheat on their respective significant others, they may as well be.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Averted. It's precisely because none of them could afford to live on their own that the students share the flat.
  • Friendship Moment: All the tenants scramble to prevent Wendy's boyfriend from finding out she's in bed with another guy.
  • Fun with Acronyms: ERASMUS stands for European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students. Not that you learn this from the film...
  • Fun with Foreign Languages
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Isabelle gives Xavier a tutorial in female pleasure by getting it on with her girlfriend in front of him.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Isabelle laments the fact that Xavier is male.
  • Inherently Funny Words: Urquinaona.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: Xavier ends up pursuing a writer's career, and his first book is about his time in Barcelona.
  • The Lad-ette: Isabelle.
  • Last Girl Wins: Xavier met her before several other girlfriends of his, but the last girl he starts a relationship with in ''Russian Dolls" is Wendy, and she's the one he ends up with.
    • However in Chinese Puzzle First Girl Wins: After 10 years and two children, Wendy leaves Xavier for an american. In the end Xavier and his first girlfriend Martine who also had two children from failed relationships decide to get back together and live in New York.
  • Love Triangle: Xavier has an affair with Anne-Sophie.
  • Market-Based Title: Depending on where you are in the world, you may know the film as L'auberge espagnole, The Spanish Apartment, Europudding or Pot Luck.
  • Meet Cute: Jean-Michel and Anne-Sophie met cute, and predictably, they never tire of telling everyone how they met.
  • Narrator: Xavier provides the voiceover.
  • National Stereotypes: Lampshaded by William, who observes that the German student's side of the room is much tidier than the Italian student's side. "You Germans, you like order, don't you?"
    • Later on in the same scene he explicitly references Adolf Hitler. This is about the point where everyone in the apartment but Wendy want to throw him out on his ass
    • Also present with the way everyone treats Bruce, the American guitar player that Wendy starts messing around with, who Xavier explicitly refers to as a "stupid American," even though we're never given any reason to think he's less intelligent than any of the others (granted, they're graduate students and he's a busker, but still... or given that the movie takes place over the course of a year, with regular gaps in time, they probably know more about him than what is shown).
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Signing up for the ERASMUS program involves dealing with uncooperative secretaries and filling out loads of paperwork.
  • Planning with Props: Jean-Pierre, a neurosurgeon, explains to Xavier the workings of the human brain by using food items as props.
  • Scooby Stack: Happens when the tenants want to find out how the negotiation between Xavier and the landlord is going, but don't dare come out of Wendy's room where they're all hiding.
  • Shout-Out: Jean-Michel, when Xavier asks him if he can crash at his place until he finds steady accommodation, references Astérix in Iberia by answering "Between Gauls, we've got to help each other out!"
  • Slice of Life: There isn't really a plot, the story is simply about Xavier's year in Barcelona.
  • Split Screen: When the various characters rush back to the flat in order to get Wendy out of trouble.
  • Title Drop: Xavier looks up the dictionary definition of auberge espagnole. "As with literature, so with a Spanish inn: you will only find in it what you brought in the first place."
  • Toros y Flamenco: Averted; this Spain looks decidedly genuine and un-Hollywoodish. But Isabelle does take flamenco classes.
    • To be fair, flamenco is popular in Spain: it's just not as ubiquitous as Hollywood thinks it is.
    • William's stereotypical beliefs about Spain put him on the wrong foot with everyone the first night he crashes, particularly Soledad
  • Trash of the Titans: Everyone in the flat thinks that cleaning up is someone else's job, except Wendy, who goes understandably crazy over it.
  • True Companions: the residents of the apartment by the end of the movie. In the sequel they've drifted apart, but they're still obviously thrilled to see each other at William's wedding.
  • Tsundere: Martine.
    • Wendy has some elements of this as well.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Most prominently Anne-Sophie, but Wendy as well.