Ibiza: The Silent Movie review – history for hedonists in bikinis

Julien Temple’s documentary mines the Spanish island’s past for nuggets of interest, but the facts that matter are clubbing and beaches

We get a scattering of semi-interesting facts in Julien Temple’s promo-video-style history of Ibiza, which is a “silent movie” in the sense that there is no voiceover or recorded speech, and occasional intertitles. It more resembles the director’s own previous collage experiments, an assemblage of archive material and tongue-in-cheek filmed reconstructions.

Temple has one nice gag: the island’s name was originally taken from Bes, the Egyptian god of fertility, hedonism and dance, and so Bez (from the Happy Mondays and Black Grape) gets a brief cameo playing Bes. Maybe the whole movie should have been centred on Bes/Bez, though that might have pushed Bez’s performance capabilities beyond their limits.

Temple briskly takes us through Ibiza’s place in classical history as the alleged birthplace of Hannibal, and its agonised history during the 1930s. (Temple flashes up as an intertitle the somewhat glib running commentary: “Both sides commit appalling atrocities during the civil war.”) We hear about its position as a place of refuge for intellectuals and artists such as Walter Benjamin, and as a postwar mecca for beatniks and hippies. Then Ibiza becomes another part of Franco’s mission to beef up Spain’s tourist income, marketing it to holidaymakers. (Temple crisply calls this the “fascist administration of paradise”.)

In the 90s, the new era of superclubbing dawns: an opportunity for fun, dancing, profit and money-laundering. But each and every one of these interesting things about Ibiza is subordinate to the thing that the movie thinks is crucial: shots of young women in bikinis.

The historical bits are just the tiny bikini of quasi-knowledge, the wet T-shirt of supposed fact, semi-covering what’s important. And some of the facts are curiously presented: the revelation that a fugitive Nazi was discovered on Ibiza in 2006 is accompanied by frowny-face Nazi emojis.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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