Goya's Ghosts shows why films were first called moving pictures. This Milos Forman film is a visual feast. Those expecting a Forman Amadeus style biographical movie about Spanish painter Francisco Goya will be disappointed. If you are looking for a historical epic you will probably be disappointed too. This is a historical movie but Goya's Ghosts is more about a period and the corruptibility of absolute belief in something than about a particular person.
Javier Dardem as the very duplicitous Brother Lorenzo, Stellan Skarsgard as Francisco Goya, and Natalie Portman of Star Wars fame as Ines, the love interest, and her daughter Alicia, all give good to excellent performances. In some ways, though, any other actors could have done it. Characters, though, are not quite what Goya's Ghosts is really about, nor is it about their story. Though the characters and story are interesting this movie is really the cinematic interpretation and representation of the work of Francisco Goya so both play second banana to the visual recreations.
Not that Brother Lorenzo and Goya are not interesting characters but they are seen and shown as men with a personal agenda. One is just somewhat less subservient to his personal interests than the other. There is a very telling scene near the end of this movie where the two men accuse each other of the same thing and both are, to a degree, right. Listen carefully when Goya tells Lorenzo why he cares so much for Ines.
If you like historical movies but do not particularly worry about nit-picking historical exactitude and, instead, enjoy the costumes and time travel experience more this is also a very good movie. Goya's Ghosts has no problem collapsing time and events. For example Goya's later work is presented at the beginning of the movie before everything else happens. I also know a couple of people who will enjoy the scene where the French soldiers flee for their lives.
Goya's Ghosts is what it is and what it is is visually interesting and, also, an interesting story.