The Prince – lust, love and longing behind bars

El Príncipe

LGBTQ+ Film and TV

The Prince is available to rent or buy now.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Can prison set you free? This question sits at the heart of The Prince, a brooding drama based on a little-known 70s Chilean novel by Mario Cruz. In adapting Cruz’s work, director, Sebastián Muñoz offers us a bold slice of erotic drama layered with broader themes of acceptance, belonging and love in a country on the verge of sweeping social change. Seen through the eyes of young Jaime (Juan Carlos Maldonado), a newly inducted prisoner, Muñoz weaves a story that takes us from Jaime’s introduction to prison life to his repressed sexual desires and inner turmoil. Like many prison dramas, Muñoz creates an environment where older inmates offer a blanket of protection for new prisoners at the price of their bodies, subservience and undying loyalty. For Jaime, the prison matriarch El Potro (Alfredo Castro) offers this uneasy security through a relationship founded on sex, control, companionship, and unspoken love. Here the divide between the mentor and the mentee is clouded as Jaime (aka ‘The Prince’) finds sexual freedom in the darkest of worlds.

To a limited extent, The Prince plays to a range of classic homoerotic stereotypes surrounding prison life, but it also, thankfully, manages to transcend the pitfalls of these. Muñoz carefully unpicks themes of freedom, belonging and escape in a narrative that subverts the loss of liberty as Jaime finds himself and his inner power behind his prison walls. Before his imprisonment, Jamie’s life is ruled by fear, unspoken desires and uncontained anger, his ability to live freely held hostage by homophobic views and toxic masculinity. However, despite its unrelenting darkness, the prison environment opens the door to sexual freedom, allowing Jaime a life not afforded him outside of its walls. That does not mean the internal environment of the prison is wholesome, caring and loving. But, unlike the society outside its gates, it is open to difference, male connection and care. For this reason, homosexuality becomes a strength allowing Jaime to find a place and purpose unavailable in broader society.

In exploring the opposing worlds of incarceration, The Prince reflects many of the social discussions found in Jean Genet’s Un Chant d’Amour. Here its narrative openly explores the effects of forced isolation and the need for human warmth while exploring the virtual prisons created by society’s actions and beliefs. The Prince never attempts to romanticise incarceration; this is a brutal, closed world drenched in sweat. Yet, Jaime’s shared prison cell is also bathed in a warmth rarely seen in similar dramas, the dirty environment a communal meeting point and place of safety. Here the peace of its grimy and damp walls is only interrupted by the arrival of a new prisoner or the frequent brutality of the guards. When this aesthetic is coupled with Juan Carlos Maldonado’s outstanding performance alongside Alfredo Castro, The Prince transcends the boundaries of the classic prison drama to become a complex, erotically charged exploration of identity, belonging and escape.



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