The Beasts (As Bestas) is a movie by the Spanish director Rodrigo Sorogoyen, released in 2022. The film premiered at the 75th Cannes Film Festival and participated in many other festivals worldwide, receiving positive feedback everywhere and winning nine awards at the Goya Awards presented in February 2023. Already considered one of the best Spanish movies of all time, it’s based on the true story of a murder that occurred in Galicia in 2010, in the little country village of Santoalla. In this article, we will discover the events behind Antoine and Olga, the couple represented in the movie.
You can watch the official trailer for The Beasts here on Youtube.
The Beasts: the true story that inspired the movie
In The Beasts, the movie directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen, the protagonists are Antoine and Olga, a French couple living in a small village in Galicia, threatened by their neighbors. The movie is inspired by the true story of Martin Verfondern and Margo Pool, a Dutch couple who moved from the Netherlands to the little Spanish village of Santoalla in 1997. The movie decided to adapt the true story, turning the nationality of the protagonists into the French couple Antoine-Olga, but for the rest, it’s the reconstruction of the murder that shocked Galicia from 2010 to 2014.
In 1997, Martin and Margo decided to leave the Netherlands, intending to start an eco-friendly business in the little village of Santoalla. When they arrived in the little town, the only other family living stably there was the Rodríguez family. The relationship between the two families deteriorated quickly when they discovered that the Dutch couple had the same rights as the Rodríguez family on the profits from the nearby mountains’ lands: seeing their profits cut to half because of the presence of a foreign couple, the Rodríguez family started to hate them.
Martin was often threatened by the Rodríguez family, especially the two sons of the family, Julio and Juan Carlos. Martin Verfondern admittedly carried a video camera “always on stand-by” every time he left home because of the continuous threats by the Rodríguez brothers. One of those videos became evidence in the trial that occurred years later. You can find it here on Youtube and in this article on El Pais: in the video, you can see Juan Carlos Rodríguez saying (in Spanish), “I’m coming after you; you are very fat and ready to be killed.” Juan Carlos had an intellectual disability that turned his mental age into the one of a child.
On January 2010, Martin Verfondern disappeared without a trace. The police organized an extensive search operation in the lands surrounding their home, but his body wasn’t found. The case remained open until June 2014, when a Civil Guard helicopter made an emergency landing in an unexplored area in those mountains, finding the remains of the Chevrolet Martin was driving four years before.
The investigation of the car led the police to suspect the Rodríguez brothers. During one interrogation in December 2014, Juan Carlos admitted he had shot Martin. During the trial, his brother Julio explained that he found Martin’s body in his car and decided not to inform the authorities. Instead, he drove his car to a remote location in the mountains, where the Chevrolet took fire.
Juan Carlos was sentenced to 10 years and a half of prison for the homicide of Martin Verfondern. According to the prosecutor, he was driven by the hatred his family had towards Martin and killed him to please his father and his brother unconsciously. Between 2010 (when Martin disappeared) and 2014 (when his body was found), the Rodríguez brothers kept shopping at Martin’s widow, Margo, always claiming that they had no idea of what happened to Martin. On one occasion, Julio told Margo that he believed Martin “ran off with another woman,” as he often saw him with a blonde.
The murder of Martin Verfondern shocked Galicia over the 2010s until the end of the trial in 2018, and many newspapers covered it in Spain. In 2016, a documentary titled Santoalla covered the story, narrated by Martin’s widow Margo (you can watch the trailer here). Sorogoyen’s The Beasts is the brave transposition of this true story on the big screen, gaining recognition as one of the best movies of 2022.
As of 2022, Margo Pool, Martin’s widow, is still living in Santoalla as the only inhabitant of the village.