Title: A Fantastic Woman
Direction: Sebastián Lelio
Script: Sebastián Lelio and Gonzalo Maza
Interpreters: Daniela Vega and Francisco Reyes
Cinematography: Benjamín Echazarreta
Country and year: Chile 2017
Duration: 104 minutes
This question from the Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio has broad resonances in our contemporaneity, especially in the Hispanic culture where the rights of the LGBTI community are always under harassment, as it is focused on masculine and macho, with which deviations from the norm constitute a threat to the virility and hegemonic control of man over the other members of society.
Marina, a young singer in the process of changing her sex and from a modest background, has had a stable relationship with Orlando for a year, a business owner and divorced father of a family, belonging to a higher social stratum. Consequently, when he suffers an aneurysm and dies suddenly, Marina will be the object of a double marginalization on the part of her lover's family. A conservative family, which in the post-Pinochet Chilean context has diverted its intransigence towards those who threaten its dominance and shake its comfort zone, as demonstrated by its rejection of the popular demonstrations of 2019 against the government's elitist policies.
The reality of Marina, as a transgender and a person branded as socially inferior, surpasses Orlando's ex-wife and son, who will make her feel the weight of her aversion, verbally and physically humiliating her when she seeks to reaffirm her place in the life and death of her couple, to the point of distorting their existence as a human being. “When I married Orlando we were very normal. We had a normal life. So when he comes and explains to me; I think there is pure perversion in this, no more. Excuse me, but when I see you, I don't know what I see; I see a chimera ”, the ex-wife tells him, reinforcing the invisibility to which they want to condemn her. "Incredible, my dad was crazy (...). If you steal something, I'll find out ”, the son threatens her, while physically assaulting her to force her to leave the father's apartment, thus reiterating the double delegitimization to which they want to condemn her.
The camera will favor here the counter-plane game between Marina and the city of Santiago, in order to emphasize her fear and contrast it with the hostility of the environment where she will be intercepted by the police to make her return to the hospital, after a complaint from the doctor on duty. suspicious of his relationship with the deceased. "He did not have to treat me like a criminal," the young woman will blurt out against him, before being harassed by a policeman, who will insist on the illegality of her name in order to delegitimize her as a woman. "My name is Marina Vidal, do you have a problem with that?" She will also launch her, showing herself at war with those who seek to continue insulting her from her position of power.
In fact, it will be from that place that Orlando's son and his friends will continue to violate her. "Get out of here, you asshole," they will yell at her when they see her walk down the street, then forcing her to get into a truck where they will continue insulting her while they tie her face with duct tape to disfigure her and literally erase the "threatening" features from their consciences. , before abandoning her in a secluded alley. The moral and physical blows, however, will chisel the protagonist, possessing a strong personality that will allow her to banish the inadequacies of others and rise above their miseries. Something that the director successfully achieved with the film, while promoting the discussion around the law on gender identity in Chile, finally made reality in December 2018.
Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia have also enacted similar laws, although in reality the Latin American transsexual population continues to be threatened, since the life of peripheral groups is of little value, especially the most vulnerable populations such as those belonging to the LGBTI community. And, within this, the transgender group bears the worst part, given that their life expectancy is extremely short as they are constantly exposed to the brutality resulting from the intolerances of the environment, both externally and with regard to the family itself. Marina's sister, however, will support her and provide shelter for her while she finds her own room; although the brother-in-law will show, not an open rejection, but a marked discomfort, mirroring the Hispanic male suspicion towards what, from his perception, could put his manhood into question.
The fact that Marina is a professional singer with a countertenor tone and performs baroque compositions adds another layer of meaning to the character, raising her above the mediocrity of the environment and her detractors. This places her on a higher plane than those who vent their frustration, which is the case of Orlando's wife, having been pushed aside by him, or give vent to anger towards the father, due to their own inadequacy before the world as it happens with the son. A behavior, translated into conspiracy against the victim who is the target of her harassment, which the production enhances by introducing elements typical of the hyper-real, in the sequence where the young woman walks surrounded by an increasingly strong wind preventing her from moving forward, while her voice-over sings the aria "Sposa son disprezzata" by Geminiano Giacomelli.
Such an allegory of the obstacles that the intolerance of others puts in front of her has its counterpart in the phantasmagorical appearances of Orlando, when she is overwhelmed by external circumstances, orienting her towards the place of absence turned presence from memory and memory. . There the hidden and unrepresentable of external animosity disappears, opening a space for affection and delight in intensely shared moments, of the time when existence seemed to smile at them and life was glimpsed as an endless plain where they could slide unhindered or unhindered. .
The diegesis highlights this dichotomy, leading the character to fluctuate between the contradictions of the world and personal denials, making him refute the sense of justice inherent in every society considered democratic and therefore inclusive. Although the deficiencies of a flawed political, social and economic system show the opposite, simultaneously making a dent in their self-esteem. Here Marina hesitates and perceives a false inadequacy of which she is not to blame, but that recent fateful events, happening alluvially over her days, have made her temporarily recognize as true, even wanting to hide from the surrounding drama. "Did you come to improve your technique or to hide from the world?" His singing teacher will ask perceptively. "Both and vice versa," the young woman will cryptically reply, shaken by this "reality check", where there should be no room for self-pity or fear.
In this sense, another strong point of the film is its success in presenting a transgender person, not from the deep inequality that marks the vast majority of the group, usually young and without opportunities to get out of marginality, but a heroine secure your site in the world. Someone for whom personal questioning and the perception that others have of her, allow him to question the false moralisms of Chilean and Latin American society as a whole, in order to educate the viewer in tolerance and respect. This results in a compact cinematic composition, supported by a script where the economy of language intensifies the dialogues, and a cinematography that supports them from the exterior shots of Santiago and the interior plans of houses, clubs and restaurants in which Marina, while she fights sectarianism, displays a marked and intense reflection on herself.
But the urgencies and incongruities surrounding the days of the heroine do not leave much room for contemplation and celebration, immersed as she is in closing the circle of mourning and reinventing herself to make room for a new facet of her split self. A self that, like the multiple faces of a diamond, reflects the best and worst of others depending on the beliefs, complexes and inadequacies of the receiver, although it will remain distant and suspicious of both. In fact, the emptiness of close friends, close family members and supportive colleagues will literally leave her alone in the face of danger, when making decisions and acting according to her own instincts; either by riding on the roof of the car of the deceased's family, upon his return from the cemetery where he was forbidden to approach, to besiege them and thus vent his frustration, or immediately moving away from his relatives with Diabla, the Orlando dog, which only company .
The justification for this loneliness will reside in the dynamics of self-control and a strict discipline imposed, a product of the profession as a singer, maturing and improving its technique with each new onslaught of events, always on the verge of surpassing it, but which consistently solves or leaves a On the other hand, as he continues his process of identification with the chosen self. A process that the diegesis addresses, in its allusions to the Lacanian stage of the mirror, and the camera captures when Marina suddenly observes herself, in the middle shot on a polished surface that two men hold in the middle of the street or inside her new house , in the foreground on a tiny mirror above the pubis.
With this, the woman within him, which formally chosen construction, permeates the unconscious and allows him to assume the image that really belongs to him, while erasing more and more from his body and his imagination the imposition of childhood, in a progression where the spectator becomes an accomplice; hence the way in which the film allows those who stand on the other side of the screen to establish a closeness with the protagonist, empathizing with her process of self-identification with the self that corresponds to her at this specific juncture of her future.
In this way, the gaps that the absence of the lover has left in the locus where this process is generated, will be filled with the reaffirmation of a new identity, whose reality will accompany the changes that occurred in his post-Orlando life, and can then face with more independence and control over their own passing the gradual passage from one sex to another. This, beyond the social, legal and even legal impediments, as the argument will develop in the character of the police inspector, forcing her to have a "physical inspection" to verify if there are "possible injuries", and threatening to open a file if he refuses. Facing this new humiliation, driven by a woman who has no solidarity with her case and finally carried out in a police station by an insensitive and ignorant doctor - "How do I treat her?", He asks the inspector perplexed - will not daunt her, however, If not, it will help to temper a new person, emerged from the trauma and the unexpected abandonment. With this, Marina becomes a model for those who are in a similar situation, or who intuitively know themselves inside the wrong body but have not yet managed to articulate the appropriate strategies to get out of it.
The lack of references thus turns out to be a handicap for those who wish to readjust their sex, which joins the intransigence of the power groups, putting their interests before those of this group invoking a morality protected by sectarian and selective Catholicism. And although the Church will not play a leading role, it is indelibly embedded in the intolerance of Orlando's relatives, who, like the vast majority of false moralists, will betray what the doctrine establishes with their actions. In fact, it will be in the burning chapel with the deceased in body present where his ex-wife will publicly raise her voice to overwhelm Marina. “Nobody says anything here. Please go away, ”he snapped aggressively. “Get out of here, they just told you. Don't you have respect for the pain of others?
The devices for controlling and mastering the male gaze will also be present in the chapel through the figure of Orlando's son, who will perceive the young woman as an aberration of the feminine, having taken over her representation by enhancing it, that is, , conferring a power on the man that historically this resents; and more coming from one, in his eyes, simulation of what is desired, made here unattainable because the codes of representation do not coincide with those that traditionally push him to possess it openly, either falsely or by force.
In fact, it will be in the next scene when she will instigate her friends to harass and torture her and then cowardly flee from the alley where they have left her, after clumsily trying to transform her face into a masquerade of the feminine. This, in order to strip her of what is perceived as a disturbing femininity in the wrong body that dislodges them, leaving them without arguments to interact clearly and naturally, given how threatening it is towards a highly debatable manhood, which is suspended between what is verbalized and what is verbalized. covert, exposing the uncertainty between what is and what is said. A paradox, used by Marina to break with a past, now problematized by the cornering of which she is being a victim, and begin to lay the foundations for a new future.
Upon returning to the Orlando apartment and finding that the son has put all his things on the door, appropriating without contemplation of it given the absence of a clear legal regulation that recognizes the right to earn a part of his partner's property, he begins to build that newly released future. Here the obstacles posed by the reactionary way of proceeding of the family group, are diluted before the magnitude of the challenge constituted by its insertion into a "milieu" unwilling to receive it, however; With which the desired normalization is seen as an unapproachable utopia, plagued in addition to risks and contingencies within a Latin America that continues to ignore the existence of other things, denying them their rights and delegitimizing them in all instances of the day to day.
The traveling shot of Marina walking next to a field dotted by abandoned structures and fragments of walls covered with graffiti, mirrors the desolation experienced by those who do not fall within the established patterns. This simultaneously allegorizes the place of ruin and the subversive outline, within an alternative urban landscape from where, however, the centers of struggle and resistance against the establishment rise. Demanding from this then respect for difference, a legal framework capable of protecting the integrity of the most vulnerable and the punishment of those who violate it, in order to contain abuses and prevent more deaths, also becomes an integral part of the diegesis in "Una fantastic woman ”.
Consequently, the film transcends the closed frame of the protagonist, universalizing the contents and conferring on the production its power to alter the viewer's private behavior, or at least to confront him with his particular notions of what is and is not fair or morally acceptable. . This should exhort the Chilean and Hispanic American people as a whole, to a collective reflection on the guidelines of the countries and where they intend to go, in an extremely changeable and shifting global framework; especially in the conjuncture that arose with the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences in a future that is less and less free and more subject to the dictates arising from the collusion between large technology corporations and the State itself, whose primary function should be to protect the public. citizenship against the excesses of these.
But the social good does not spread as quickly as viruses and corporate power exceeds that of governments, increasingly subordinate to its dictates and dependent on its policies. A certainty, that when we turn towards the issue of sexual identities, it indelibly marks the developments, evolutions and changes both individual and collective, where the subjects are debated within a fundamentally hostile and exclusive framework in which the resilience of each is put to the test. which. “You are going to scare me to death,” says the sister to Marina when they meet to help her move out of Orlando's house. "No. I will survive ”, she will respond, emphasizing the need to reiterate to herself that she is in control of her situation and her destiny.
This can be seen in the sequence between the real and the hyper-real in the place where he dances, has a fleeting sexual encounter and meets again with the appearance of Orlando. This not only allows her to attract her ghosts, but also allows a liberating self to emerge, which separates her even if only momentarily from the cataclysms inherent in living, surrounding her with a glamorous aura that radiates its brilliance over the crowd. The medium shot of the young woman —wrapped by sequins on the dance floor leading the ensemble, and projected onto the screen as in the musical films choreographed by Busby Berkeley “Footlight Parade (1933) and“ Dames ”(1934) - contains the playful and illusory of fantasy, capable of redeeming it from mistreatment and restrictions to highlight the uniqueness of its person. This gives the director the opportunity to show a less intolerant side of Chilean society and to emancipate the heroine, who will emerge strengthened from the experience and determined to definitively close this chapter of her existence.
The subsequent visit to the Finnish sauna where Orlando had a locker, the content of which the director will leave the spectator's imagination in a fade like a dark abyss where the unrepresentable disappears, and the arrival at the funeral home to finally say goodbye to the lover, complete the journey of a long night towards the day in which the protagonist has been immersed. The painful events beyond her control, but which have led her to enter a more reflective stage of the self, have caused the tension with the other to finally vanish, thus allowing her to rebuild and rebuild herself from a less precarious position, but also more unrelated to him.
In fact, the last scene where with a camera zoom the young woman sings the aria "Ombra Mai Fu" by Georg Friedrich Handel on a bare stage, accompanied only by a pianist and a string quintet, provides the keys to the performance in her double meaning; as a musical performance and as a personification of that equally double self: that of the character and that of the real woman. Both images contained in a self-figuration exogenous to the dictates of conservative society, whose obsessions and small miseries have ended up crashing against the interpretive quality and elegant demeanor of Marina-Daniela, finally showing on the screen, before the viewer and the public, in all its fullness.
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