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Film / Gold (2017)

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In early 16th century, for many Spaniards whom poverty and hunger had driven into becoming soldiers, the just discovered Indias offered dreams of fame and fortune. So there they traveled in great numbers, with everything to win and nothing to lose except life.
They were tough, arrogant, cruel people, often divided by quarrels and birthplaces. They killed without any scruple and died without any protest in the search of the dreamed gold. But while they walked into the unknown, these men and women gave birth, unwittingly, to a new world and an amazing epic.

Gold (Oro) is a 2017 Spanish Historical Fiction film directed by Agustín Díaz Yanes. Based on and expanded upon a short story by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, it tells the journey of a 16th century Spanish expedition marching through the Mesoamerican jungle in an ill-fated attempt to find the legendary gold city of Tezutlan.

The film is not based in any historical fact, although it takes inspiration from the expeditions of Hernán Cortés, Lope de Aguirre and Vasco Núñez de Balboa.


Gold provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Ana asks to be given weapons and join the fight, and despite being an untrained civilian and initially a bit scared of fighting, she quickly adapts and gets a handful of kills by gun and dagger. This was Truth in Television during the Spanish conquest of America, by the way.
  • All for Nothing: Contrary to the legend, Tezutlan is just a coastal village with gold-colored roofings. All the efforts, pains and deaths for the legendary treasure were for nothing.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Depending on how you interpret the crew's intense expressions when Don Gonzalo orders Marchena play a vihuela song, they might be affected by its nostalgic lyrics, offended at the old captain for bringing up a palace commodity in midst of the jungle, or just weirded out by how out of place it feels there - or maybe all of it.
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  • Anti-Hero: The entire group qualify as Villain Protagonist, given that they are technically greedy conquerors who make a living of invading, sacking and raping in foreign lands. However, most of them are still pauper immigrants who moved to the New World as their only way to escape hunger and misery back in Spain, and their pillaging is actually not very different from what native tribes do to each other themselves - they still are more measured and civilized in comparison.
  • Artistic License – History: For a Spanish expedition of the period, this one is miserably underequipped, having no horses, black slaves and indigenous allies, all of which would have been absolutely vital, and only a single guide. It's also rather small, being around 40 people, when a man of Don Gonzalo's rank should have been able to gather easily multiple times that number and it would have been still considered a risky enterprise. While it's implied that all of this is due to Don Gonzalo being an absolute hack who couldn't manage an expedition to save his life (literally so), no mention of those lackings is made by Gorriamendi, Dávila or any other veteran who should have known better, rather giving the impression that this was the ordinary way.
  • Badass Crew: The protagonist expedition, formed mainly by veteran soldiers from one of the strongest armies of the Old World. They continiously lay waste on hostile tribes and enemy forces, despite being travelling through an uncharted Death World and getting outnumbered all the time by enemies who play at home.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Out of forty men and women, only Dávila and Barbate survive to reach Tezutlan. However, they find out there's not gold, only yellow-colored clay, so they will probably be hanged when they return to the colonies for having nothing to compensate all the trouble with. At least they are still alive and safe for now and have taken possession of the Pacific Ocean, which should give them a bit of clout... if they ever return alive.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Marchena is a bumbling coward most of the time, but he gets a moment of battle rage, butchering natives with a dagger through the tricked wall.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Mediamano's village was burnt down and his wife was killed, possibly in the same attack.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Even the most conventionally evil member of the expedition, Ensign Gorriamendi, is open to fight along with Indians and women if they wish to do so (in contrast to some crewmen who openly antagonize the Indian allies and see women of any race as just booty). Also, although he worked as a slave hunter in the past, he seems to actually care little for racial differences given that he is just as nonchalant murdering Spaniards as he is killing natives. Though it might surprise some, this attitude was Truth in Television, as Spanish conquistadores accepted anybody who wanted to wield a weapon for them regardless of their nationality and gender (often for pragmatic reasons, as their job's high mortality meant they couldn't be picky with their recruits), and didn't saw Indians as racially different or inferior, only as uncultured people who had to be educated (which is the reason many conquistadores ended up marrying native women after settling down).
  • Everyone Has Standards: The soldiers might be serial rapists by modern standards, but when they see Father Vargas attacking Quetza only for having voluntarily slept with Ulzama (as there was the implication that Vargas wanted her for himself), they immediately stop him and give him a scary beatdown for the trouble.
  • Eye Scream: Sgt. Bastaurrés bursts the eye of an enemy with his thumb during a close quarters scuffle. Later, a soldier gets a dart directly to the eyeball. It's nice in neither case.
  • Face Death with Dignity: A very common trait among the expedition members, including not only soldiers like Romero and Gorriamendi, but also non-combatants like Father Vargas, who merely puts up a resigned This Is Gonna Suck face when he gets abandoned to his death in a swamp. Considering that solely joining the Conquest of Mexico required a crapton of guts for the average European at the time, it is not that surprising they are that biase with the possibility of dying.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: Many of the soldiers wear asymmetric armor, presumably a result of the battle damage and lack of supply lines.
  • General Failure: Don Gonzalo, the expedition's captain. Aside from being petty and tyranical, he also has a spectacular disregard for his men's lives, depends heavily on his lieutenants for true military action, and has a clear favoritism towards his wife. As a result, the men soon mutiny against him and execute him on the spot.
  • General Ripper: Ensign Gorriamendi, especially towards Dávila.
  • Guile Hero: Sergeant Bastaurrés sends Dávila and Mediamano to patrol before the soldiers revolt and execute Don Gonzalo, not wanting Dávila to be present when Gorriamendi takes possession of Doña Ana. Mediamano deduces this and goes along the plan, even threatening to let Dávila get lost in the jungle if he tries to return.
  • Hungry Jungle: Filled with strange beasts, mortal diseases and hostile natives.
    Dávila: Shitty jungle...
    Mediamano: Soldier. No get angry with jungle. If you against her, she put hand in your chest and pull out heart. And then take sword. And you not soldier anymore. You crazy man.
  • Hypocrite: Father Vargas chastises everybody for their lust, yet he himself tries to take Quetza as a concubine.
  • I am a Humanitarian: The Three Sin Savages are said to be cannibals. This is not seen onscreen and might be meant to be just in-universe cultural propaganda, but the corpses of Spanish soldiers found in their shacks are bloodied and hung like pork, which hints it might be true after all.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Done by almost all the soldiers, who employ captured native women as sex slaves. Gorriamendi also rapes Doña Ana as a sign of dominance after taking over the expedition, and even Captain Medrano first thinks on this when he comes upon her.
  • Mirror Character: Subtlely implied with Mediamano, the indigenous guide. While he is one of the most moral members of the group and has a most sympathetic background than the rest, which gives him an edge to modern viewers' sensibilities, there's the interesting fact that he is a Chocó tribesman who in turn carries a very Aztec macuahuitl and chimalli panoply as his main weapons. The implication here, assuming this is not an artistic license on the producers' part, is that he acquired those foreign weapons as war booty while fighting for the Spaniards in Mexico, making him ultimately just like the conquistadores he serves: a hired gun who thrives by plundering foreign lands.
  • Nerds Are Virgins: Implied with Ulzama, the fussy licenciado or royal officer of the expedition, who gets rather flustered when Quetza proposes sexually to him. They presumably have sex afterwards.
  • Noble Demon: Ensign Gorriamendi is a brutal marauder who is willing to steal riches from the king himself and kill anyone in his way, but he also has a sense of honor, loves his dog, and respects those who serve him, especially fellow soldiers.
  • Noble Savage: Mostly averted, with some native tribes being aggressive and brutal, and even sympathetic examples like Mediamano being half-moral at the best, but there's a hint of it in Quetza, who approaches the Spaniards with both curiosity and innocence.
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed:
    • The premise of a dubiously functional group of war veterans trying to find a legendary City of Gold, with their leader being killed and replaced by one of them before revolting too against the king's authority, and including a woman whose beauty end up turning them into a trophy, is inspired by the expedition of Lope de Aguirre.
    • While the setting and goal are different, a lot of the basic plot is largely a simplified version of Hernán Cortés's expedition. Don Gonzalo's authority is rebuked before departing, just like Cortés did so against the orders of governor Diego Velázquez, and an army is sent to arrest him before being ambushed and assimilated by the expedition (the leader of this force, Captain Medrano, even wears an eyepatch, echoing how his real life homologue, Pánfilo de Narváez, lost an eye during his attempt to arrest Cortés). The expedition also has a female member nicknamed La Parda, a reference to a real life conquistadora that formed part of Cortés' entourage, and later find a Spanish soldier who has Gone Native in the vein of Gonzalo Guerrero and Jerónimo de Aguilar.
    • The expedition ends up discovering the Pacific Ocean, like Vasco Núñez de Balboa did. And it's possible that the leads will end up executed, just as Núñez was.
  • Pet the Dog: Gorriamendi can be often seen petting his hound, Rabioso, and is also completely heartbroken when the dog is sniped down. He also gets indignant when Don Gonzalo orders some soldiers to be killed through a lowly civilian method of execution, which was Serious Business at the time and place.
  • Politically Correct History: Although the definition of "political correctness" in the Conquest of America varies heavily depending on who you ask, the film is undeniably dark and brutal and pulls few punches in any direction. If anything, Pérez-Reverte later opined they might have gone actually a bit overboard with the grittiness when they wrote the film. However, the film still features a few points tailored to appeal to modern western sensibilities: for instance, the expedition atypically lacks Indian allies, mestizos or black conquistadores, and the background of its only indigenous auxiliary implies he was basically forced into that life, delivering the very modern message that only white Europeans indulge in imperialism and no person of colour would voluntarily help them.
  • Primal Stance: Mediamano is often seen with a semi-crouched stance, especially before fighting, probably part of his tribe's martial customs.
  • Race Lift: A strange case with Ana's maiden. She is nicknamed La Parda, pardo being a period term for mulatto or African black, but she's played by the very pale white Anna Castillo. (Her nickname even seems to evoke the historical La Parda, a notorious African-Spanish conquistadora who was one of the first black people to set foot noAmerica.) However, this oddity is never even mentioned, and it just seems weird due to all the work put in the rest of the film's setting.
  • Sinister Minister: Father Vargas is an egotistical hypocrite.
  • Stalker with a Test Tube: Played for laughs with Quetza, who wants to beget a child by Ulzama because she believes his ability to write makes him a supernatural being. He complies sheepishly, although it is unknown whether it was enough to impregnate her (or whether she survived to Medrano's attack).
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's implied everybody in Requena's village was butchered by Medrano, but as we don't get to see it onscreen, it's possible some of them escaped or were left alive.
  • You No Take Candle: Mediamano and other Indians speak a Spanish version of this. Justified to a point, as Spanish Language has a pretty tricky variety of conjugations and it actually takes a time for a non-native speaker to fully stop sounding like this in real life.