In a small cell in a crowded prison, a young man sits alone. His name is Molina, he is thirty-seven years old, and he is serving a sentence for corrupting a male minor. Depressed and lonely, he hears a woman's tempting voice offer him eternal peace if he can find her... (Prologue) Another young man is dragged into the prison, on his way to a torture chamber. His name is Valent?n, he is twenty-seven and a political revolutionary. The Warden hopes that, under torture, Valent?n will reveal the names of his colleagues in the revolution. When Valent?n does not talk, the Warden places him in the same cell as Molina. Horrified at Valent?n's condition, Molina imagines a scene from one of his favourite movies, starring the screen goddess Aurora. With the fantasy to help him, he escapes from the terrifying reality of the prison. (Her Name Is Aurora) Other prisoners dream of their lives Over The Wall to cope with the harsh world of the jail, and the Spider Woman watches over everything like a kestrel.
Days go by and Valent?n recovers. When Molina tries to talk with him (Bluebloods), Valent?n tells Molina to leave him alone. Unable to keep quiet for very long, Molina describes his life as a window dresser (Dressing Them Up) until Valent?n explodes. Valent?n draws a line down the middle of the cell, and orders Molina to keep to one side of it and to give up hope that they could ever be friends (I Draw The Line). Molina manages to keep quiet for a little while, but when he begins to make noise again the guards arrive and force Molina to say, "I'm a faggot piece of shit, and any time you want me I'm here." Humiliated and desperate for someone who cares about him, Molina dreams of his ailing mother, and Valent?n dreams of his own Dear One, Marta.
While the other prisoners wonder about those they've left behind Over The Wall (II), Molina is taken to talk with the warden, who amuses himself watching a prisoner try to escape before he orders the man gunned down. That night, as screams of tortured prisoners ring throughout the prison, Molina tells Valent?n why he loves movies so: After his father died, his mother had to work nights as an usherette in a cinema. "She never complained," he says, "I, of course, adored it. It was a fabulous cinema. It had Egyptian d?cor. And since there was no one to look after me, she took me with her when she went to work and sat me in the front row. That's where I first saw my Aurora." He saw every movie of Aurora's many times, memorising "every line, every song, every costume, every kiss..." and adoring them all. "All except one," he amends. Aurora once played a role he found too frightening to watch: "A woman who was Death. They called her the Spider Woman, and whenever she kissed someone, even a child, they died." The Spider Woman, claims Molina, is only too real, and is in the prison with them. Valent?n is not impressed, but as Molina explains through Aurora, when your life is hell, movies can take you away from Where You Are.
An Amnesty International officer visits the prison and accuses the Warden of torturing his prisoners. The Warden denies the charge, and we immediatley see Valent?n and Molina's cell packed with other prisoners. They have been like this for three days, and one man has already died from the pressure. Using Molina's method of escape, Valent?n dreams of Marta, and survives the torture.
Molina is brought again to the Warden's office, and this time we see the interview: the Warden is certain that Valent?n will confide the names of his comrades to Molina, and he is counting on the window dresser to betray his cellmate. Molina claims to know nothing of Valent?n's friends, but even the Warden knows he is lying. Hoping to loosen Molina's tongue through fear, the Warden shows him another prisoner being tortured to death. Molina is terrified, but not because of the violence he is witnessing. He sees the Spider Woman waiting on her web for the tortured prisoner, and when he is too weak to survive, the Spider Woman kisses him. (Come) Once the prisoner is dead, Valent?n is brought in to be interrogated next.
After the interrogation, Valent?n is brought back to the cell, bloody and unconscious. Molina conjures Aurora up to help him minister to Valent?n's wounds, and Valent?n dreams of Marta. (I Do Miracles) Days go by, and Valent?n recovers again. While the men wait for their dinner one night, they discuss the failing health of Molina's mother. Once the dinner arrives, though, they argue over who should get which portion, and Molina barely eats when Valent?n finally chooses his plate. While Valent?n inhales his food and Molina picks at his, they talk about a married waiter, Gabriel, who caught Molina's eye before he was arrested. Molina's reminiscing reminds Valent?n of his own deflowering. (Gabriel's Letter/ My First Woman) Molina becomes terribly sick- the food was clearly poisoned and meant for Valent?n- and is rushed to the prison infirmary. When he is given morphine for the pain (Morphine Tango), he imagines that his mother is with him. He apologises for all of the shame he has caused her, but she assures him that she would only be ashamed if he did something cruel or uncaring: "You Could Never Shame Me." Molina reaches to embrace her, but suddenly he finds the Spider Woman in his arms. (A Visit) He is too sick to fight her or even run, but she is only there to talk, so she says. "Someday," though, she promises him, "You will kiss me? but not now." More morphine makes the vision disappear, (Morphine Tango II) but the Spider Woman is always in the background, watching, waiting...
Molina recovers and returns to the cell, where he discovers that Valent?n has not eaten for three days. The guards finally give him food, and while Molina is certain that it is poisoned, he says nothing. Valent?n finally admits that his Marta is not in the movement with him, that she represents everything he is supposed to be fighting against. Still, he cannot help but love her. When he begins talking about how he became a revolutionary, Molina begs him not to give him any details, but before Valent?n can say much he collapses in pain: the poison found its mark this time. Unable to control his digestive track because of the poison, Valent?n dirties himself, and Molina cleans him up. As Valent?n falls into a feverish sleep, he whispers Marta's name. Molina cleans the cell and wonders what his life would be like if he were a woman like Marta. (She's A Woman) The Warden appears and again asks Molina if he knows the names of any of Valent?n's comrades. Molina assures him that he doesn't, and the Warden tells him that his mother is dying. If Molina will betray Valent?n, he will be free to care for his mother and probably save her. If not, he'll never see her again. Terribly torn, Molina concentrates on the immediate problem: keeping Valent?n alive and away from the Warden-controlled infirmary. To help with the pain, Molina conjures up the strongest movie sequence he knows, the nightclub scene from "Bird of Paradise," in which Aurora is caged and tortured, but refuses to betray the man she loves. (Gimme Love) As Valent?n gets sicker, and the Spider Woman gets closer, just watching the movie is not enough. Molina literally carries his friend into the exotic cinematic jungle, reciting his mantra: "Her name is Aurora, and she is so beautiful! No man who has met her can ever forget her; they're madly in love! Forever in love..."
Days have passed and Valent?n has survived the poisoning. Now completely hooked on Molina's pictures, he asks Molina to finish the latest Aurora movie for him. Molina recounts "Flame of St. Petersburg," a silly Russian Movie, in which Aurora dies to save her lover. Valent?n finally tells Molina a "movie," his own painful life story. As a poor boy determined to better his world, he explains, he learned that if freedom does not come tomorrow, it will arrive The Day After That. The guards dragging a prisoner through the hall interrupt the reverie. Valent?n, having learned Molina's trick of looking but not seeing, pretends not to know the man, when in reality he is one of his comrades. Molina, however, sees the condition of the prisoner and can't help but hiss out "You goddamn murdering bastards" at the guards. Everyone, including Molina, is shocked at how much Valent?n has influenced the window dresser. "Will you stop trying to make a man out of me?" Molina begs his friend.
The Warden informs Molina that his mother is doing very poorly. Knowing that he can make Molina betray Valent?n, he allows Molina to talk with his mother for a few moments, (Mama, It's Me) and that does the trick. Realising how much she needs him, Molina finally agrees to get the names of Valent?n's comrades. The Warden keeps his end of the bargain, and tells Molina that he is being released in the morning. He is to ask the revolutionary if he can do anything for him on the outside. That night, in the cell, Molina tells Valent?n of his release, and Valent?n asks Molina to deliver a message for him. Molina refuses; he knows he could not keep quiet if he were tortured for information, and he doesn't want to betray his friend. It has become glaringly obvious to everyone, including the two prisoners, that Molina has made the most fatal mistake possible: he has fallen in love with Valent?n. (Anything For Him) Realising this, Valent?n plays his only card and seduces Molina, who is far too much in love to say "no."
As night envelops the two men, the Spider Woman appears, triumphant. No one can escape her; the Kiss Of The Spider Woman comes to everyone, eventually... including lovers.
The next morning, Valent?n again asks Molina to return the previous night's favour and deliver his message. Molina refuses, but his resolve weakens when Valent?n kisses him. Finally, he accepts the job and memorises the telephone number and message. In the Warden's office, Molina makes up some names and is released. Over The Wall (IV- Lucky Molina), however, he realises that he has changed too much to return to his simple life, and once his mother is restored to health, he telephones Marta and gives her Valent?n's message.
In the torture chamber, Valent?n is strapped into a chair and bloody, but he still will not give up any names. The Warden drags in another beaten, bloody prisoner, and it takes Valent?n a few moments to recognise his old cellmate. Realising that he betrayed Molina by forcing him to deliver the message, Valent?n tells his friend to give the Warden the names he knows. Molina, however, is now as strong as Valent?n, and refuses to talk. The Warden pulls out a pistol and threatens to kill Molina if one of them does not give up the names, but Molina tells Valent?n that if he talks, he will have betrayed him. There's no way out. Molina whispers "I love you" to Valent?n, and the Warden pulls the trigger.
Of course, Molina never could handle pain or unpleasantries. When life became difficult, he imagined himself in movies. Now that life is completely impossible, he steps into his own movie, permanently. Everyone he has ever known is in it, and in this fantasy world he can express his love for Valent?n without fear. In a white suit and tails, Molina explains that he found joy Only In The Movies, so that is where he will remain from now on. Still, death is death, and the leading lady in his movie is the Spider Woman. They dance a joyous tango together, and at its climax, Molina finally, and without fear, accepts the kiss of the Spider Woman.
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