The real strength of the film is in its extraordinary sensuality both in the luscious cinematography which accentuates the erotic narrative as the characters sexual games expand and in the gorgeous locations in Spain and Africa. The film is set in the height of the flapper era in the 1920’s and the costumes and spirit of the time play a major role in the narrative as the couple get entwined with a lesbian lover played by the stunning Caterina Murino who becomes a permanent fixture in their relationship. In terms of story, the film is a contrast to what one might expect from one of the most heralded figures in the literary world and is confusing at times (most notably the ending which is more implied symbolically than told on screen) but the novel itself was a departure from his work and may have lost its meaning in the editing done after the authors suicide in 1961.
The film is really more of a visual fantasy than a well told story. It has its flaws but is still worth watching, whether it’s for the historic aspects or just the pulchritudinous imagery.