Little Ashes

Little Ashes is a 2008 Spanish-British drama film set against the backdrop of Spain during the 1920s and 1930s, as three of the era's most creative young talents meet at university and set off on a course to change their world. Luis Buñuel watches helplessly as the friendship between surrealist painter Salvador Dalí and the poet Federico García Lorca develops into a love affair.

Little Ashes
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPaul Morrison
Produced byCarlo Dusi
Jonny Persey
Jaume Vilalta
Written byPhilippa Goslett
StarringRobert Pattinson
Javier Beltrán
Matthew McNulty
Marina Gatell
Music byMiguel Mera
CinematographyAdam Suschitzky
Edited byRachel Tunnard
Samantha Patterine
PT Films
Aria Films
Factotum Barcelona S.L.
Met Film Production
Met Film
Distributed bySOROlla Films (Spain)
Kaleidoscope Entertainment (UK)
Release date
  • 7 October 2008 (2008-10-07) (Raindance Film Festival)
  • 8 May 2009 (2009-05-08)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$2.9 million
Box office$452,558[1]

Little Ashes won the GLAAD Media Award for "Outstanding Film - Limited Release" during the 21st GLAAD Media Awards.[2]


In 1922, 18-year-old Salvador Dalí (Robert Pattinson) arrives at art school in Madrid. The Residencia de Estudiantes, or Students' Residence, is a modern environment which encourages Spain's brightest young minds. Salvador, who is determined to become a great artist, soon catches the attention of the Resi's social elite — poet Federico García Lorca (Javier Beltrán) and aspiring filmmaker Luis Buñuel (Matthew McNulty). Together, they form the nucleus of the most modern artist group in Madrid.

Their private lives become increasingly complex, as Federico ignores the advances of devoted friend and writer Magdalena (Marina Gatell), and Salvador himself feels the pull of Federico's magnetism. Luis, becoming increasingly isolated by the duo's closeness, decides to move to Paris to fulfill his own artistic ambitions. Meanwhile, Salvador and Federico leave Madrid to spend the summer at the seaside village of Cadaques, at the home of Dalí's family.

Federico finds himself accepted[3] into the Dalí family as he and Salvador grow closer until, one night, their friendship becomes romantic.[4] Even as they draw closer, their relationship appears doomed. Luis visits them at university and becomes more suspicious and appalled by their apparent intimacy.

Salvador finds Federico's obsession more than he is prepared to handle, and eventually leaves for Paris. Enveloped by the high society and decadence there, Salvador is soon entangled with Gala (Arly Jover), a married woman with a penchant for celebrities. When Federico visits, he finds his friend is a changed man, both in his life and his politics.


Details of the relationship between artist Salvador Dalí and poet Federico García Lorca have long been the subject of speculation and debate among historians and biographers. In Little Ashes, Dalí's and Lorca's feelings are shown deepening into a love affair that the sexually repressed painter tries (but fails) to consummate.

Between 1925 and 1936, during the course of their friendship, Dalí and Lorca exchanged numerous letters. The original manuscripts of Dalí's letters to Lorca are held by the Fundación Federico García Lorca in Madrid, and those of Lorca to Dalí are held by Fundacion Gala-Salvador Dalí in Pubol, as well as in private collections. While it is widely acknowledged that Lorca was infatuated with Dalí, for years the painter denied entering into a relationship with Lorca.

Dalí stated:

He was homosexual, as everyone knows, and madly in love with me. He tried to screw me twice .... I was extremely annoyed, because I wasn't homosexual, and I wasn't interested in giving in. Besides, it hurts. So nothing came of it. But I felt awfully flattered vis-à-vis the prestige. Deep down I felt that he was a great poet and that I owe him a tiny bit of the Divine Dalí's asshole. He eventually bagged a young girl, and she replaced me in the sacrifice. Failing to get me to put my ass at his disposal, he swore that the girl's sacrifice was matched by his own: it was the first time he had ever slept with a woman.[5][6]

The film's writer Philippa Goslett supposes:

It's clear something happened, no question... When you look at the letters it's clear something more was going on there[...] It began as a friendship, became more intimate and moved to a physical level but Dalí found it difficult and couldn't carry on. He said they tried to have sex but it hurt, so they couldn't consummate the relationship.[5]

Biographer of both Dalí and Lorca, Ian Gibson, stated:

It depends how you define an affair, he [Dalí] was terrified of being touched by anyone, so I don't think Lorca got far.[5]

In the repressed Spain of the mid 1930s, Lorca's homosexuality seems to have provided an additional thrill to those who assassinated him in 1936. Lorca's biographer Leslie Stainton has suggested that the killers made remarks about his sexual orientation


  • Robert Pattinson as Salvador Dalí
  • Javier Beltrán as Federico García Lorca
  • Matthew McNulty as Luis Buñuel
  • Marina Gatell as Magdalena
  • Bruno Oro as Paco
  • Esther Nubiola as Adela
  • Marc Pujol as Carlos
  • Arly Jover as Gala Dalí
  • Simón Andreu as Fernando del Valle
  • Vicky Peña as Magdalena's aunt
  • Rubén Arroyo as Rafael
  • Diana Gómez as Ana María
  • Pep Sais as Art Teacher
  • Joan Picó as Young Officer
  • Ferran Audí as Guard 1
  • Adría Allué as Guard 2
  • Ferran Lahoz as Señor Milagro
  • Cristian Rodrigo as Young Journalist
  • Sue Flack as Madam
  • Adrian Devant as Puppeteer
  • Ramón Enrich as Professor
  • Xavi Siles as Man 1
  • Philippa Goslett and Hannah Rũtzou as Federico's Sisters
  • Paco Alonso as Gypsy Singer


The title is taken from Salvador Dalí's 1927–28 painting Cenicitas (Little Ashes).[7][8] It was originally called The Birth of Venus, before being changed to Sterile Efforts and then finally Cenicitas.[9] It was first displayed on 20 March 1929 in a Madrid exhibition.[10] It was again displayed in his first solo exhibition in Paris in June 1931.[11] The painting is currently in the Dalí collection of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid.[9]


Little Ashes premiered at the 16th annual Raindance Film Festival in London. The sold-out screening was scheduled on 7 October 2008 at 19:00, and a second screening was also added for 8 October at 14:30.[12] Little Ashes premiered in the US at the Miami Gay & Lesbian film festival. On 8 May 2009 it premiered in only 11 US locations.

The UK DVD was released on 13 July 2009 and is rated 15.[13] The US DVD was released on 26 January 2010.

Critical reception

The film holds a "Rotten" rating of 24% based on 70 reviews with an average rating of 4.2 out of 10 on the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The site's consensus states, "It has a beautiful cast, but Little Ashes suffers from an uneven tone and a surplus of unintentionally silly moments."[14]

Ty Burr of the Boston Globe panned the film and wrote: "What's intended to be a daring look at repressed sexuality, three-ways and all, has the dramatic heft of a true-love comic book".[15]

Greg Quill of the Toronto Star wrote: "Even cinematographer Adam Suschitzky's richly textured and resonantly toned cityscapes and rural scenes can't make up for a flawed script and weak performances in what might have been a powerful historical drama".[16]

Chris Hewitt of the St. Paul Pioneer Press commented that: "The movie, with its badly painted backdrops, its stiff acting and its complete lack of dramatic momentum, is embarrassing to watch".[17]

However, Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film a positive review by calling it: "A bravely earnest and gauzy bit of biography".[18]


  1. Little Ashes (2009) - Box Office Mojo
  2. "21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards - English Language Nominees". Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. 2010. Retrieved 21 February 2010.
  3. According to Ian Gibson, Lorca was "utterly at home with his hosts and by now hopelessly involved with Salvador"
  4. Archived 1 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  5. Smith, David (28 October 2007). "Were Spain's two artistic legends secret gay lovers?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  6. Bosquet, Alain, Conversations with Dalí, 1969. p. 19–20. (PDF format)
  7. Colour reproduction of painting Cenicitas
  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 March 2009. Retrieved 28 November 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. The Shameful life of Salvador Dalí p 162
  10. Salvador Dalí An Illustrated Life, Tate Publishing
  11. Salvador Dalí An Illustrated Life, Tate Publishing
  12. Little Ashes | Raindance Film Festival 2008
  13. HMV | Music, Films, & Games |
  14. "Little Ashes (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  15. Little Ashes movie review - Little Ashes Showtimes - The Boston Globe - The Boston Globe
  16. Little Ashes: Historical kiss off | Toronto Star
  17. 'Little Ashes': What's left whenyour little movie can't get stoked -
  18. 'Little Ashes': Dalí and Lorca in love - philly-archives

Further reading

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