Mister Arkadin (1954)


Gregory Arkadin (Orson Welles) has a castle in Spain, and it turns out to be the famous Alcázar Castle of Segovia, under whose turrets, said to have inspired the construction of Disneyland, the Catholic Monarchs Isabel and Fernando married before setting out on the conquest of Spain and sending Columbus off to discover the new world.

Segovia’s other emblematic monument, the impressive Roman Aqueduct, also features prominently in the film, which is all about a whirlwind race around the world to unearth information about Arkadin’s past, a plot not too dissimilar from ‘Citizen Kane’.

Spain’s famous Easter penitent processions with Ku Klux Klan garbed sinners in bare-footed, torch-light columns with Flamenco music passing as religious dirges evince Welles’ commitment to Spain, and the herds of goats huddling along the main street, while no longer to be seen in tourist-sodden Segovia, can still be witnessed in some small villages.

       When Van Stratten and Raina first arrive at the castle, with an airplane flying overhead, Welles mixes exteriors of the Alcázar with street scenes of the much filmed nearby medieval village of Pedraza, especially its main square.

Once inside the castle, where Arkadin holds a masked ball, we are in fact inside the Colegio de San Gregorio in Valladolid, witnessing a Goyaesque performance, mostly played by local students apparently, among the spiralling columns of the cloister and the ornate staircase and first floor gallery.

Curiously, while the Alcázar is usually a background feature in most of the films where it appears, in Mister Arkadin we are allowed onto the terraces to see the views of Castilla all around as Arkadin reveals his plan to Van Statten.