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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

The Prince ****

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

Starring: Juan Carlos Maldonado, Alfredo Castro, Gastón Pauls

Director: Sebastián Muñoz Costa del Río

Country: Chile

The winner of the highly coveted Queer Lion from the Venice Film Festival, Chilean prison drama The Prince has found release in the UK thanks to Peccadillo Pictures. Set during the brutal 1970s regime of Allende, this is an erotic adventure behind the bars of a prison where who you know is more important than what you did.

Jaime (Maldonado) arrives in prison battered and bruised by the police, having murdered his best friend. As the details of his crime are drip-fed through flashbacks, he is forced to find his own way in prison after he catches the eye of the powerful gangster known only as “The Stud” (Castro), Surrounding himself with the prettiest boys in the prison, those in his favour fare well, but those who aren’t, do not. As Jaime reluctantly finds his feet, he is immediately monopolised by the older inmate, through whom his status rises after he labels him “The Prince”. But when an Argentinian rival for power (Pauls) arrives, a vicious power struggle ensues between the criminals for his affection.

Based on a pulp-fiction novel, the film see-saws between the gritty realism of Midnight Express and the eroticism of Genet’s Un Chant d’Amour and Fassbinder’s Jailbait. Sexuality is a weapon here, in which Jaime uses his looks as power, steadily growing in narcissism as his profile rises amongst the prisoners. And if this film is to be believed, there isn’t a straight inmate in the jail.

Jaime’s journey behind bars is one of the rise of an antihero, with an innocent young boy corrupted by the system he’s locked inside. Or at least as innocent a boy can be when the opening frame sees blood pouring from the head of his dead best friend. The film is unabashedly explicit, not shying away from sex and nudity, with which the movie is saturated. At times this is sexy, but mostly it’s a nasty film, with a protagonist whose descent into depravity makes for compelling viewing.



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