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Kiss of the Spider Woman

Theatrical Poster
Directed by Héctor Babenco
Produced by Executive Producer:
Francisco Ramalho Jr.
David Weisman
Written by Leonard Schrader
Manuel Puig
Starring William Hurt
Raúl Juliá
Sonia Braga
José Lewgoy
Music by Nando Cordeiro
Michael Jary
John Neschling
Cinematography Rodolfo Sánchez
Editing by Mauro Alice
Distributed by Island Alive
Release date(s) United States:
July 26, 1985
Running time 120 minutes
Country Brazil
United States
Language English

Kiss of the Spider Woman (Portuguese: O Beijo da Mulher Aranha) is a 1985 Brazilian-American drama film. It was directed by Argentine-born Brazilian director Héctor Babenco[1], and adapted by Leonard Schrader from the Manuel Puig novel of the same name. William Hurt, Raúl Juliá, Sonia Braga, José Lewgoy, and Milton Gonçalves star in the leading roles.



The film tells of two very different men who are sharing a Brazilian prison cell: Valentin Arregui (Raúl Juliá), who is imprisoned (and has been tortured) due to his activities on behalf of a leftist revolutionary group, and Luis Molina (William Hurt) a homosexual in prison for having sex with an underage boy.

Molina passes the time by recounting memories from one of his favorite films, a wartime romantic thriller that's also a Nazi propaganda film. He weaves the characters into a narrative meant to comfort Arregui and distract him from the harsh realities of political imprisonment and the separation from the woman he cares about.

Arregui allows Molina to penetrate some of his defensive self and opens up. Despite Arregui occasionally snapping at Molina over his rather shallow views of political cinema, an unlikely friendship develops between the two prisoners: the dreamer and the political activist.

As the story develops, it becomes clear that Arregui is being poisoned by his jailers to provide Molina with a chance to befriend him, and that Molina is spying on Arregui on behalf of the Brazilian secret police. Molina has namely been promised a parole if he succeeds in obtaining information that will allow the secret police to find the revolutionary group's members.

Several more surprising twists occur, as Molina falls in love with Arregui, Arregui responds after a fashion, Molina is granted parole in the hopes Arregui will reveal contact information when he knows Molina will be out of the prison, Arregui reveals that he has been aware that Molina has been spying on him, and then provides Molina with a telephone number in spite of that knowledge.

In the final scenes Molina makes use of the telephone number and a meeting is arranged with someone from the revolutionary group. But the secret police have had Molina under surveillance, and a gun battle ensues, with the revolutionaries, assuming Molina has betrayed them on purpose, shooting and killing him. Rather than take Molina to the hospital for treatment, the policemen dump his body in a rubbish tip, where he slowly dies, on the orders of the homophobic police chief (Milton Gonçalves), and fabricate a story about his death and involvement with the revolutionary group.

Meanwhile, back in the prison Arregui is being treated (illegally) after being tortured, and he escapes into a dream where he is on a tropical island with the woman he loves.


The story features a "movie within a movie," featuring Luis Molina episodically telling Valentin Arregui the plot of a fictional movie called Her Real Glory allegedly produced in Germany during the Second World War by the Nazis.

Unlike most such internal presentations, it doesn't matter how the "movie within the movie" ends; the plot is what happens to the prisoners.


  • William Hurt as Luis Molina
  • Raúl Juliá as Valentin Arregui
  • Sonia Braga as Leni Lamaison / Marta / Spider Woman
  • José Lewgoy as Warden
  • Milton Gonçalves as Secret Policeman
  • Míriam Pires as Mother Molina
  • Nuno Leal Maia as Gabriel, Molina's friend
  • Fernando Torres as Americo
  • Patricio Bisso as Greta
  • Herson Capri as Werner, Leni's German lover and Chief of Counter-Intelligence in movie fantasy
  • Denise Dumont as Michelle, Leni's best friend in movie fantasy
  • Antônio Petrin as Clubfoot, Resistance fighter in movie fantasy
  • Wilson Grey as Flunky, Resistance fighter in movie fantasy
  • Miguel Falabella as Lieutenant


The film is based on the 1976 novel El beso de la mujer araña (Kiss of the Spider Woman) by Manuel Puig. The Argentinian author was the first to adapt his own novel as a stage play.

A Broadway musical Kiss of the Spider Woman, also based on the same story, was produced in 1993.


William Hurt won the Academy Award for Best Actor. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Hurt also won Best Actor at the BAFTA Awards, the 1985 Cannes Film Festival[2] and several other festivals. The film was awarded the inaugural Golden Space Needle award from the Seattle International Film Festival.[1]


External links



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