When analyzing and reviewing a film through a critical lens, one can often find underlying political messages that reflect the beliefs and attitudes of the director. At first glance, the film Kiss of the Spider Woman is an interesting portrayal of an unconventional pair of prisoners, where viewers see the two opposites clashing in practically every way at first and eventually influencing each other into drastic changes. Yes, Molino is a homosexual and Valentin is heterosexual, which indeed drives much of the dialogue and plot, but that will not be the focus of this review.
This review aims to go a bit further and dissect the duality that arises when a society faces oppression from a higher authority: action versus inaction. Does one fight back against the oppressors and engage in political activism? Or is it wiser to try and ignore the unfortunate situation by escaping into fantasy? The novel and film Kiss of the Spider Woman provide a unique adaptation of this dilemma, because it is ultimately left up to the audience to attempt to implicitly decide which method (action or inaction) is preferable. Usually, a politically relevant film will address a problem with an oppressive body and offer clear, direct perspectives that represent an effort to resist. However, Kiss of the Spider Woman provides a meta-analysis of the situation, in a way, by commenting on the dilemma as a whole, rather than favoring one choice over another. In the beginning parts of the film, Valentin resists the desire to escape into fictional bliss through the fantastical narratives that Molino recites, because he is so focused on his political perspectives and cannot remove himself from the situation for relief. As the film goes on, the two characters gradually exchange attitudes, and Valentin finds himself severely influenced by Molino, which allows him to embrace escapism as a method of relief during the tough situation. The audience sees Valentin, a man who is seemingly unmovable in his beliefs, completely change the way he thinks, which can be seen most clearly by his developing love for Molino and the end of the film where his morphine-induced dream takes over and allows him to escape. The film seems to provide a looser, more fluid adaptation of the dilemma between political activism and escapism, since both characters engage in both sides of the duality.
When writing this article, a line from one of my favorite movies comes to mind. The film Boondock Saints also comments heavily on this issue of action versus inaction, except the protagonists have a much larger capacity for productive actions than Molino or Valentin in Kiss of the Spider Woman. In the beginning of Boondock Saints, the two protagonists are listening to a sermon in which the preacher describes a situation where a woman was robbed and killed in plain sight, but none of the witnesses tried to help. At the conclusion of this story about the unfortunate woman, the preacher exclaims, "Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we should fear most, and that is the indifference of good men." This influences the protagonists' decision to take matters into their own hands and personally punish the people whom they perceive to be evil.