Monday, July 27, 2009

Milk Of Sorrows: walking close to the walls

Melbourne International Film Festival 2009

La teta asustada (Milk Of Sorrows): walking close to the walls

We loved Milk Of Sorrows , Claudia Llosa’s touching film about a woman struggling to overcome her fears. Magaly Solier gives a mesmerising performance as Fausta, the Andean daughter who wants to take her mother’s body back to their village.

The appropriately named Perpetua has passed on a deep fear of the world “through her milk”. She was raped and brutalised by terrorists when pregnant with Fausta and her husband was murdered. The movie’s title translates literally as fear-filled breast and it’s referred to as the “tit illness” by one of the characters. (Despite it’s Spanish name, this film is predominantly in the local language, Quechua.)

This story is strongly rooted in Peruvian superstitions and traditions. The people of Fausta’s village “walk close to the walls” to protect themselves from the “lost souls”. Fausta protects herself from rape by a bizarre implant. Her cousin Máxima peels an orange to test her suitability for marriage.

Fausta’s relatives in Lima run a wedding business that could only exist in Latin America. It would make a great reality TV program: Matrimonial Idol - couple of the month. Their ceremonies are decidedly post-kitsch and add a needed light touch.

Fausta and her mother sang to each other as a way of communicating their inner feelings. This haunting habit of improvised songs is exploited by her moody employer, a concert pianist whose career is in decline. Our glimpse of her protected bourgeois Lima life is a very unflattering one. Ironically the tilt door of her fortress home opens briefly onto a vibrant street scene.

This film owes as much to William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying as it does to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Like all good quests, La teta asustada’s journey is more spiritual than real. It is well worth taking this journey with Fausta.

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