Character analysis and comparison
Developed in 2000, The Nine Queens is an Argentine crime drama film that tells the story of two swindlers who must work together to achieve a common goal. Juan and Marcos are two small-time swindlers who meet in a convenience store and team to work on a half a million-dollar deal. The duplicity in the plot and the inherent deception mounts progressively thus making it difficult to determine the swindler and the victim. Correspondingly, La Vida de Lazarillo de Tormes, a 1554 Spanish literary masterpiece tells the story of Lazarillo de Tormes who must survive through wit and deception. The characters in the two pieces of art are swindlers and ideal products of their respective societies. The two media reveal how the society shapes personal attitudes and behaviors thereby justifying behaviors a feature that explains the similarities that exist between the leading characters in the two.
First, the society drives the characters in both the novel and the film to become swindlers. Juan and Marcos, for example, live in a corrupt society. Insecurity, unemployment, and corruption are prevalent in Argentina at the time thereby pushing a significant number of people into swindling and malicious trickery. Juan needs to help his father by bribing a judge to reduce his prison sentence from ten years to six months. Apparently, the criminal justice system is so corrupt that bribery influences the outcome of a case. At 7:06, Juan explains his motives for teaming up with Marco. He explains that he was a con too and reveals some of his tools of the trade including the fake gun he had used to extract Marcos from his predicament at the convenience store. The corrupt society justifies the thieving nature of the characters since the theft and corruption entrenched in the legal system is yet an abject manifestation of morally corrupt society.
Lazarillo de Tormes, on the other hand, lives in a discriminative society. Born into poverty, his fate appears sealed and must live as a low caste member of the society. Sent to live with a beggar, Lazarillo acquires a cynical view of the world and learns that tricks, lies, and wit were his only way to success and greatness in such a society. Lazarillo is a farmer and the son of a poor couple. His father dies in a war fighting for the church which mistreats the poor. The society offers him a minimal opportunity for social advancement. The young Lazarillo struggles to find food among other basic needs, “I told her I was going to court and entreated her again to let me have something to eat” (Roscoe, 1881, pg. 116). In such a society, conning becomes a justifiable evil that enables him to rise through the social ranks of his society. Eventually, he attains a high social status through marriage and has hopes of raising a family.
In retrospect, the two works of art reveal an intense case of moral ambiguity. In the film, Juan develops an elaborate plan of swindling other members of the society to help raise the money necessary to bribe a judge. Marcos also goes along with the plan to help Juan and in the process cons him as a way of teaching him a lesson against conning other members of the society. Likewise, Lazarillo must use his wit and deception to survive in a morally corrupt society in which people behave immorally but regard themselves morally superior to others.
- Bielinsky, F. (2000). Nueve Reinas (Nine Queens). Buenos Aires: Buena Vista International. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJgP0x_fZrs
- Roscoe, T. (1881). The life and adventures of Lazarillo de Tormes. London: Ballantyne, Hanson and Co.