The Coming of Sin (1978)

Also known as:
Visita del vicio
The Violation of the Bitch
Sex Maniac

The Violation of the Bitch. Could a more provocative film title exist? José Ramón Larraz's little erotic Spanish masterpiece comes with many names, but The Coming of Sin is the title of the English, dubbed version we're looking at tonight. Don't be fooled either way, if you're looking for a rape film you'd best look elsewhere, as any rape scenes here are implied or thwarted outright. Larraz's film, despite having only three real players in it, manages to actually quite a complex study of sex and destiny, in the end leaving us with more questions than when we began viewing. It's also a very erotic film, as Larraz has amply shown us he can create effective horror-sinema with the classic, and very heated, Vampyres.

In the Spanish Countryside, beautiful, wealthy painter Lorna (Patricia Granada) lives a solitary life. That is, until a middle-aged woman friend asks her a favour. That is, to look after her orphan servant-girl, Triana (Lidia Zuazo) while her and her husband go overseas on business for a few months. Lorna agrees, happy to take in the shy gypsy-girl, who's nearly eighteen. Her friend warns her that Triana is neurotic and has a recurring nightmare that troubles her. Lorna shrugs it off and take Triana in.

Though Triana is shy and very serious, the two women soon become friends. Triana admires Lorna's paintings and Lorna enjoys her young charge's guitar skills. We see the dream that troubles Triana - a naked man on a black horse, stalking her in the countryside. Later we see that he's actually real (and naked) and Triana, encountering him at Lorna's house, takes a shot at him at him with a rifle. Lorna's upset but tries to calm down, and tells Triana not to shoot at people on her property again. As the two grow closer, Lorna herself spots the naked man on horseback as she takes a wander around her property. She's transfixed by him, then he gallops off. Lorna takes Triana into town and buys her a necklace that she loves. They go to a flamenco dancing club where two women dance, one dressed as a man. Later, in a state of arousal, the two make love when Triana, afraid of a storm, asks to stay in Lorna's room.

Sometime later, when walking alone in the cornfields, Triana encounters the (still naked) young man again and this time, he tries to rape her. She fights him off, and hits him in the head with a handy rock. He staggers off, dazed, and throws water in his face to recover while the distraught Triana escapes. She tells Lorna all about it, but Lorna seems unmoved, basically telling her she should get a grip on herself. Triana is horrified when the young man, by the name of Chico (Rafael Machado) actually turns up at the house - clothed, for once, and is invited in by Lorna. The smooth Chico - who lives in a shack near her property - offers to give Lorna horse-riding lessons and she accepts. Lorna treats Triana like a servant girl as she flirts with Chico, asking her to get them coffee. Triana accuses Chico of following her to Lorna's house - that's why he lives in a shack close by. Chico says nothing.

That night, Triana is troubled by the Chico-dream again, this time with herself naked inside a hollowed-out horse, looking distressed and ready to receive the attentions of Chico on his horse who circles slowly around, or the attentions of the horse, I'm not sure. It's the well-known image from the film, though. Lorna's horse-riding lessons continue happily, without incident. Triana visits an old fortune-teller she's obviously visited before. She tells her she's a devil-spawn, who's fated to love a man, and as a result, someone will die - that is all, no future or past. Triana wants the woman to give Chico the evil eye and kill him, but the old woman will have none of it. Fate is fate. Returning home, Lorna, Chico and Triana get drunk that night, with Chico kissing the unresponsive Triana. Lorna gets the most drunk, and Chico carries her semi-conscious to bed. Then, as Lorna drunkenly asks for sex, Chico steals her ring then ties her up, thinking it 'will turn her on anyway'. Triana seems to be in on it at as well as the two make love to Lorna in a drunken threesome. The next morning Lorna can't remember a thing but regrets getting so drunk. Triana and Chico reluctantly agree to model nude for Lorna's new painting, but soon begin arguing when Lorna invites Chico's family over for a party. Lorna calms them down and the party takes place. It's a rowdy affair with much singing, yelling and a young girl dancing provocatively on a giant dining table outside. Lorna and Chico sneak off for sex, rough, violent sex that obviously turns Lorna on.

When telling Triana about it later, Lorna dismays her by telling her how she seperates love from sex, and that the menage-a-trois between her, Triana and Chico suits her perfectly. When Triana professes her love for Lorna, Lorna merely replies that it's an understandable reaction as she looks after her, educates her and sleeps with her. Things go on for a while, with Triana and Lorna becoming slightly more distant. Triana thinks Lorna is pining for Chico who's been gone for a while, Lorna counters this with the accusation that the gypsy girl is the one pining, as she's the one who dreams about him. The older woman states that many years ago she learned to take men with a grain of salt, and that she should too. Still, much later Lorna gets in her car and drives out to meet Chico at his shack. He claims to love her, Lorna just says he just feels lust, and that she'd prefer it that way. She just needs male company. Chico doesn't seem to care about this judgement, and the two begin quite a torrid sex scene. Larraz certainly knows how to film passionate sex and The Coming of Sin is no exception. He seems to coax something out of his actors that many directors can't, and of course it doesn't hurt that his actors and actresses are good-looking people. No sooner does Lorna find her way out of the reeds and bushes, than Triana confronts her - wielding a rifle. Is the prophecy about to be fulfilled? Will one of this odd little threesome die, or can Triana's destiny be broken?

Let's look at the surface beauty of The Coming of Sin before delving any deeper. I adored the lush, soft-focus cinematography by Fernando Arribas. It added a dreamlike quality to the whole film - which is appropriate as dreams are a central theme. The Spanish guitar and flamenco music playing throughout is a delight. There's a lot of nudity in this film, and the naked bodies and sex on display are all very erotic and attractive. It's a bit of a pity the voluptuous brunette Lidia Zuazo doesn't get a straight sex scene with Rafael Machado, though. The whole film is suffused with the beauty of nature - sunlight, horses, marshlands, forests. When it's not eroticised nature, we're surrounded by art, with the various sexual paintings created by Lorna, hanging everywhere we look when we're inside her luxurious mansion. So on an external level The Coming of Sin is pure visual pleasure. It's a pity the dubbing is performed by some pretty banal English actors. They seemed to have odd cockney accents that don't support the air of arty, sensual sophistication Larraz is trying to achieve.

As I mentioned in my introduction, there's a lot of mystery in this film. Do Triana and Chico know each other prior to meeting Lorna? Are they criminal gypsies, plotting to rob and harm the wealthy Lorna all along? Why does Chico really ride around naked on a horse - his claim of it helping him grip the animal better doesn't hold any weight. I'm not sure who's being 'violated' in this film, which woman the 'bitch' is, or what 'sin' came to Lorna's house. Chico's attempted rape of Triana is stopped by a well-aimed rock. Maybe the 'sin' of indifference towards Triana displayed by Lorna, after falling in lust with Chico, 'violates' the young girl and triggers the final mayhem. Maybe Lorna is 'violated' by the theft of the ring that Chico performs and Triana is a silent accomplice to. We already realise that jewellery plays an important symbolic part in this film, with Triana's necklace appearing again at film's end. Then again, the violation could dwell in the conclusion which I won't spoil, but it's something of a shock. The film ends quickly, but does turn our understanding of what's been happening between the three of them on it's head.

Multitudes of questions or not, The Coming of Sin is an extremely compelling piece of erotic cinema made by a director who clearly knows what he's doing, with a complex vision. I'd urge anyone who's into erotic art-cinema to get hold of it and take a look. It's an underrated little classic.

© Boris Lugosi, 2008.

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