What Is the Film "Kiss of the Spider Woman" About?

by David Harris

"Kiss of the Spider Woman" is a 1985 drama starring William Hurt and Raul Julia. Sonia Braga played the Spider Woman and Hurt's girlfriend. Based on the 1976 novel by Argentine author Manuel Puig, the movie was directed by Hector Babenco. The film grossed $17 million, according to Box Office Mojo, and it won numerous awards.


The film takes place in a Latin American prison. Valentin Arregui (Raul Julia) and Luis Molina (William Hurt) are cellmates, but imprisoned for entirely different reasons. Valentin, a journalist, is incarcerated for working with a leftist anti-government revolutionary group. Molina, a window dresser, is in prison for having sex with an underage boy. He says he has no political allegiances.

Torture and Betrayal

Throughout the film, Valentin is tortured by his captors in attempt to extract information about his comrades. In the interim, Molina recounts to him the story lines of his favorite films. Even though Valentin dislikes that some of the films were made by the Nazis, he becomes caught up in the romantic parts of the story. However, we soon discover that not only is Valentin being poisoned by his captors, but Molina is spying on him for the police.

Spoiler: Love and Death

Molina eventually falls in love with Valentin, and the men consummate it one night in the cell. Molina is paroled, and Valentin gives him contact information and a message for his comrades. Molina sets up a meeting with the revolutionaries, but does not betray Valentin. However, the police have been tailing Molina and engage in a gunfight with the revolutionaries. Molina is shot by the revolutionaries, and the police offer to help him in exchange for information. Molina refuses. He dies as the police make up his involvement with the revolutionary group.


"Kiss of the Spider Woman" received very strong reviews upon its release. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. Ultimately, it took home Best Actor for Hurt. Hurt also won Best Actor at the BAFTA Awards, the Cannes Film Festival, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards and others others. Hurt and Julia tied for Best Actor from the National Board of Review, USA.

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