Madrid, 1868: Queen Isabel's regime is crumbling, and Don Jaime de Astarloa (Antonutti) lives only for fencing. When the beautiful Adela de Otero (Serna) asks him to teach her, he refuses to instruct a lady. A demonstration of her skill, however, has him curling his moustache. Soon he's infatuated, but Adela has a more prominent partner in mind. Olea's adaptation of Arturo Pérez Reverte's novel begins in a solemn register, but just as you're about to write it off as a museum piece, it abruptly changes tack and develops into a lively old-fashioned melodrama: Don Jaime is duped in love, a friend is murdered, a woman's corpse is fished out of the river. This intrigue has enough cut and thrust to tickle all but the most jaded palate, while Serna makes a fine foil for Antonutti's crafty performance. Only Olea's wider socio-historical pretensions seem a mite sketchy.