Archivo de la categoría: Películas

La prostituta y la madre: El contrapunto femenino de ¡madre!

En la filmografía de Darren Aronofsky, sobre todo en sus últimas películas, existen dos constantes que permean sus narrativas: la presencia constante de una iconografía y alegoría religiosa  en sus historias y la tremenda necesidad de llevar a sus personajes femeninos al extremo de una crisis nerviosa; por supuesto que ¡madre! no es la excepción.

Antes de comenzar, quiero hacer una aclaración, debido a que ningún personaje tiene nombre en el filme, haré mención de cada uno de ellos por medio de los actores que los interpretan y de los estereotipos que representan, de esta forma no habrá confusiones y podré seguir un hilo argumentativo mucho más claro.

A mi manera de verlo, uno de los grandes aciertos de Aronofsky con esta película, es la de su representación de la figura femenina como  aquella persona dividida, y fracturada, entre dos fantasías estereotípicas que son producto de la perspectiva masculina: la madre y la prostituta.

En ¡madre! los personajes femeninos relevantes son interpretados por Michelle Pfeiffer y Jennifer Lawrence. Ambas son caracterizadas como meros estereotipos bíblicos: la primera figura como la prostituta que representa el deseo y la lujuria provocadora del hombre para hacer cosas atroces y, la segunda, como la madre que sacrifica su vida y entrega todo por su familia.

Sobra decir que éstas son alegorías directas de figuras religiosas y bíblicas. Eva (o la prostituta) es aquella mujer que cayó ante la tentación del fruto prohibido y se convirtió en la personificación del deseo, y a la Madonna (y hasta cierto punto, la Madre Naturaleza) aquella mujer que se entrega sin condición a la maternidad y a la atención y dedicación por otros.

Estos estereotipos han funcionado como contrapunto del otro desde el inicio de los tiempos. Desde la perspectiva masculina  una mujer puede debe ser un objeto de deseo y lujuria primero y una madre dadivosa y entregada después. Así, estos personajes son retratados como recipientes donde los máximos deseos y anhelos de los hombres son depositados, no como personas completas.

Tanto Pfeiffer como Lawrence son personajes que son definidos por sus esposos, interpretados en la película por Ed Harris y Javier Bardem. Ambos son hombres egoístas que no están interesados en escuchar la opinión de sus esposas y que constantemente las minimizan con afán de arrebatarles su agencia. No son más que imágenes borrosas que pertenecen a la fantasía de un hombre, no a una realidad palpable.

Son ideales  masculinos de lo que una mujer debe o no debe ser ante una sociedad y, por lo tanto, son figuras que no deben convivir en el mismo espacio ni deben de compartir características similares. La mujer debe ser, primero, una prostituta en lo privado, en la cama, en la recámara y, después, debe ser una madre en lo público, ante la mirada de la comunidad, ante los ojos de su esposo. Después de todo, ese es su fin último en la vida.

En el filme, ambas son articuladas como antagonistas, como personas que no tienen la capacidad de convivir bajo el mismo techo y a las cuales les resulta imposible compartir algo. La prostituta llega a crear caos a la casa de la madre mientras que la madre se siente amenazada por las actitudes pecaminosas de la prostituta.

La prostituta representa todo lo que intimida a la figura de la madre, es segura de si misma, es provocadora, dice lo que piensa y no tiene problema con habla e, incluso, mostrar, sus momentos de privacidad sexual con su esposo.  La madre, por otro lado, es callada, sumisa y solo piensa en complacer a sus esposo y sus pedimentos.

La prostituta es la que sugiere la idea de embarazarse y la que invita a la madre a vivir su sexualidad con libertad, a no detenerse, a convencer a su esposo de la idea. La prostituta es la tentación y la madre es la incubadora de la pasión.

Michelle Pfeiffer se encuentra presente en todo el primer acto de la película en la que el personaje de Jennifer Lawrence quiere convertirse en madre y desaparece justo cuando se entera que está embarazada. Más explícito no podría ser.

Quizás es cierto que  Darren Aronofsky buscaba retratar los peligros de la sobrepoblación y la explotación ambiental con su filme , sin embargo, también es importante hacer notar que, haya sido su propósito o no, logró con esta película representar de una forma innovadora la ambivalencia social que se espera de la mujer hoy en día.

When fame gets in the way of love: a musical tragedy.

It seems that love and fame are difficult —or even impossible— to get along with. At least that’s what some movies, particularly musicals, have been trying to explain us all along. In their worlds, failed artists are meant to find love only by sacrificing their passions.

Nowadays, films’ stance on the artists’ love life is like this: you either are very lucky to find the love of your life and spend what’s left of your days to devote yourself to his or her hapiness, or you succeed on achieving your dreams by following the path you are always meant to walk. You have to choose, you can’t have both.

There’s no better way to illustrate this than with Jason Robert Brown’s  The Last Five Years, adapted to film by Richard LaGravenese, and Damien Chazelle’s Lala Land. Movies where their protagonists   —all artists, by the way — have to face the tough decision of living a fameless life by staying together or embracing the success that is coming their way, but only by themselves.

In The Last Five Years’ movie adaptation, Cathy (Anna Kendrick) is a musical theater performer who is looking for an opportunity that can finally take her out of her waitress job. Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), on the other hand, is a writer looking for a publishing house who would want his book.

In Lala Land, Mia (Emma Stone) is an actress who is looking for an opportunity that can finally take her out of her barista job. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz lover who wants to open his own club where he can play his own music.

They all have dreams to fullfill and places to be, but life — and love, at some extent— eventually gets in their way.  Both couples fight to stay with each other along the way, but success, as we will learn, is a tricky thing to achieve and it does not wait for anyone or anything.

What’s really enlighting about contrasting these two movies is that we have the possibility to understand how two directors can represent different scenarios, and perspectives, of the same problem: the one with the couple that begin to have problems as soon as one of them becames famous, and the other couple that strengthens themselves by supporting each others dreams but fell off the wagon half way anyway.

Whilst Jamie succesfully manages to sell his first book to a famous publishing house right after he starts dating Cathy, she is not getting callbacks at all. In fact, she is just stuck between her job as a waitress and her summer gig in Ohio. She is happy for him but, as he becomes more and more famous, she starts to feel more like a failure. She doesn’t want to be the one that’s left behind.

There’s more than the eye could see with their relationship’s problems, Jamie’s success in no way feels like a threat to Cathy, but rather a constant reminder of her failure and her impossibility to follow and achieve her dreams. Cathy’s insecurities stems from society’s need to validate women by their hability to carry along with their household activities they’re supposed to do, instead of accomplishing their goals.

Their real problem, though, is their unwilingness to communicate with each other. They are really afraid to let the other down, because they really love each other. And when they actually communicate, their only purpose is to hurt themselves.

Cathy and Jamie, in fact,  sing to express themselves. They use music to express their deepest and inner thoughts, and to reflect their expectations, like a daydreaming blowoff valve.  She wants to be independent, succesful and in love, but, at the same time, he wants to be a good provider, a succesfull writer and a charming womanizer.

Mia and Sebastian’s relationship functions the other way around. Both of them are unsuccessful and very lonely when they actually start dating. What’s really great of their relationship is the support and motivation they have with each other. Neither one of them want to see the other one fail, on the contrary, they want them to be happy and fulfilled people.

It’s really their inhability to feel empathy for one another what pushes them to break up. While Mia is incapable to believe that Sebastian would do anything to follow his dream —even if this means to play on a mainstream band and touring— he is clueless about her weariness and constant disappointment that all her failed auditions make her feel.

In the end, they all are idealists, and it’s really interesting to understand that the one thing these four people share, apart from their desire to be famous, is the way they grapple their lives by putting all their expectations before reality. They want to be in an ideal relationship, one where empathy and communication are something to be expected from your loved one.

As we can see, all of the four characters  are always constrained and forced by themselves to live between two worlds: first and foremost, on a fantasy land where they can have it all, and, later, on the real world, where love and fame can’t get along.

In fact, one of these musicals strenghts is their capability to toy with their narrative in order to show their portagonists’ life expectations by using different formats to evidence the stark constrasts between their titular couples real lives’ and their fantasy worlds.

In these movies, achievement and happiness are related with a fantasy/dream world  were their expectations are fulfilled, whilst failure and disappointment are paired with the real world. Both LaGravenese and Chazelle even depict these particular moments with different colors and shades along their stories; whereas the blue and gray filters are in charge of showing failure, the yellow and white ones are destined to bathe the screen with color when an achievement is made.

There’s certainly something tragic behind this argument. This is a world  where idealists are bound to always be normed and constrained by their expectations if they want to follow their path towards success. Even if this means to sacrifice love in their lives.

Fading to black: Lars Von Trier and gender politics.

As I have mentioned before, I really like to watch movies and TV Shows that are capable of making me feel uncomfortable —and, sometimes, even disturbed—not only for the cringeworthy moments, but for their capacity to confront and transform the paradigms with which I live my life by. Lars Von Trier’s films could perfectly sum up all of this.

I’m sure you have all watched at least one of his movies, and I’m also sure we can all agree on one thing: Lars Von Trier’s movies are nothing but average.

I’m not here to talk you into watching some of the best films of his wide and impressive career (something you should definitely do) or to tell you he is one of the most clever minds that the modern cinema has and will ever have (he really is), but to rather talk about something more relevant, and significant, to the times we’re living in: his gender politics.

If there’s something this director is really good at is portraying accurate depictions of what is like to be a woman in our current society, what her place is and how difficult her relationship with the men around her could be.

Lars Von Trier depicts his women like individuals without a voice, without a place to belong and a body to own. These women are often the caretakers, the ones that are always giving everything without expecting anything back, the ones that put everyone else’s needs before theirs. These women are stripped of any type of agency and decisions of their own and are constantly taken for granted.

Men, on the other hand, are the ones deciding upon women’s lives, decisions and bodies. The ones taking the spaces from them, the ones that are constantly putting women down by being condescending and unapproachable. These are the men that think they deserve everything they want, specially when a woman is involved. It’s no surprise that all of Lars Von Trier’s women end up on the verge.

The director has a keen eye to portray hopeless mothers. These individuals are portrayed as both completely vulnerable and always subjected to the men around them. They are women devoted to look after their children and to keep them safe from the dangers of the world.

Selma (Björk), in Dancer In The Dark, is the embodiment of this. She is an immigrant single mother that lives in the backyard of Bill (David Morse), a well-known policeman of a small town of the U.S who would do anything to please his wife, even if it means to steal money from his tenant.

Selma’s otherness is both the cause of her demise and her reason to be happy. She has no place to live, but the shed of Bill. She’s also going blind and lives with a constant guilt over her son’s possible blindness too. Bill takes advantage of this situation by immediately robbing her and putting her in a difficult position; leaving her with no other solution but to kill him.

Selma’s worst fear is to lose her child, to live in a world where his son’s childhood could be instantly robbed from him only because she has a hereditary illness. Selma’s entire life purpose is to procure her son’s health, even if it costs her her life.

So, when she’s thrown into jail, she’s not only becoming another faceless victim, she is also thrusted into a system unable to defend her. A system led by men,  that has control over her body and her freedom. A corrupt system that eventually ends up killing her and her spirit, without hesitation.

Charlotte Gainsbourg also depicted this type of mother on two Von Trier movies: Antichrist and Melancholia. This two women share the same fear of losing a child that Selma has. The difference between them resides on the story.  The woman named “She” loses her son at the beginning of the former and Claire at the end of the latter.

Both woman also have indifferent husbands who thinks that money and complaisance are the best way to be there for their wives in order to help them go through the difficult times. “He” (Willem Dafoe) is a psychologist reluctant to feel any sort of empathy towards his wife and his mourning process over the death of their child. John (Kiefer Sutherland) , on the other hand, is a scientist already fed up by her wife Claire and her “sentimentalism”.

These two men are completely certain that their wives would, and should, process their feelings the same way they do. They think they know and understand them perfectly well, but, in reality, they are just thinking about themselves. They’re not listening to them. In fact, they constantly find ways to silence them.

Dogville‘s Grace (Nicole Kidman) not only is left without a place to belong or live, but she’s also left without any will to go on with her life the very moment she arrives to the fictional town, named Dogville, looking for a place to hide from the gangsters that are after her. In there, the villagers find bizarre ways to mock her, silence her and arbitrary situations to justify the means of owning her body.

What’s really interesting of this movie is not only the raw depiction of humanity that Von Trier portrays accurately, but also the poignant point of view of a woman that is on the verge. Grace reaches a point were she has nothing left to loose. So, she orders the gangsters that are after her, to kill all the people on the town, even the children.

Yes, Lars Von Trier’s women can be selfless caretakers, but they also are human. And, as human beings, when they feel threatened, they will retaliate. Sadly, these personal rebellions will only appear when a breaking point is reached. Lars Von Trier depicts perfectly the way women are raised nowadays, as mute individuals that will not, and should not, raise their voice against anything.

Notwithstanding, Selma’s spends her last minutes alive by singing a song as an act of rebellion against the system that is in charge of breaking her. Claire finds a way to calm her child minutes before the world’s end as a way of retalliation against her fear of letting him down. In Antichrist, She finds a way to mutilate the genitals of her husband as a way to emancipate and break free from the box He put her into.

But, as we will learn from this movies, acting out will always bring consequences to the women involved. Something that Von Trier perfectly sums up on Nymphomaniac. a film where Joe (another wonderful acting piece by Charlotte Gainsbourg) goes against all that standards that the women before her had to live upon.

Joe is a fearless woman who is trying to understand who she is through sex. She is very confident about her sexuality and very conscious of her body. She refuses other men’s advances whenever she wants to whilst she doesn’t put up with them trying to control her body. She, eventually, will learn that society will not tolerate rogue women prancing around with their moral values.

By the end of the movie, Joe will be punished for her actions and for standing against a society more concerned about her behaving than to actually listen to her. Joe will reach for a gun in order to protect herself against a man (Stellan Skarsgard) who wants to control her body, and we will be left with nothing but a fade to black and an uncertainty around Joe’s life. Like all the other women in real life who are brave enough to stand against the very system who is always trying to break them but they keep disappearing.

The nice guy and the entitlement to date him in movies

You all know the story, a nice boy meets the wild girl and falls in love with her, along comes a serious relationship and she turns to be nothing he picture she would be. Boy feels betrayed by girl. Boy calls her a bitch. Boy asks himself why does these things always happen to him.

If it sounds familiar to you is because more than a handful of movies and TV shows have depicted this precise story more than enough, I must stay in their rom-coms. Unfortunately, in most of the cases, these stories tend to represent the nice guy  like nothing more than a victim of the thoughtless and rude girl, that used him ruthlessly, without thinking about this hopeless individual that devoted his whole world to woo her and love her inconditionally.

The nice guy trope in fiction is usually portrayed as that one dude who thinks he is entitled to date someone only because he’s treating the person he’s in love with with kindness and respect. This guy is that person who always thinks is being missunderstood, but that’s also lovable and totally deserves to be in a relationship only because he’s nice.

Lately, three films in particular, (500) Days of Summer, Ruby Sparks and Comet, have drew upon this specific formula in order to revert the trope of the nice guy and instead tried to depict something more real: relationships are, first and foremost, something bilateral. When it comes to love, everyone involved are the ones to blame.

If you haven’t watched these movies, let me break them down for you. Boy meets girl (fictional girl in Ruby Sparks’ case). Boy and girl begin a relationship (casual relationship in (500) Days Of Summer’s case). Girl tells boy how she feels about love. Boy doesn’t actually hears girl. Boy sky-rockets to stalker mode and wants girl to change for him. Girl breaks up with boy. Boy is devastated. Boy hates girl for putting him in that ugly position and blames her for everything that was wrong in their relationship.

What makes these movies different from the others is the way the narrative treats the relationship. Instead of begging the audience to side with the nice guy, it asks us to go further and look behind the curtain, that place where fiction collides with reality and where the cracks of their telationship begin to show. These films actual purpose is to look beyond the nice guy facade in order to really focus on the human beings involved in the relationships and the things they struggle with.

(500) Days of Summer’ Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the ultimate nice guy cliche. He’s kind, considerate and thoughtful, and on the first minute he mets Summer (Zooey Deschanel) immediately gets infatuated by her. She, on the other hand, doesn’t believe in love and hasn’t actually met someone who’s proven her wrong. Summer doesn’t want to get involved in a relationship and just wants to be friends with Tom.

If you have read carefuly, you will probably imagine what will happen next: Tom decides to have a casual relationship with her anyway to prove her he is worthy of her love; then, things go wrong. Summer ends up being the bad one, the one who is rejecting this nice guy who only wants to be in love. The one who crushes his heart .

Tom later learns that Summer is getting married and, of course, he feels betrayed. What he doesn’t know is that she is an actual person who is capable of making her own decisions. She wasn’t in love with Tom and she always told him that. He, on the other hand, decided to hear what he wanted to hear and not what she was actually saying.

Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) is the nice guy on Ruby Sparks. A dude who’s been trying to forget his ex-girlfriend (the crazy bitch of this tale), but when his fictional character, Ruby (Zoe Kazan), appears in his life as her real girlfriend, everything changes. He is thrilled to have (literally) the woman of his dreams in front of him, the one woman who has everything that he’s been looking for and certainly won’t be cruel to him.

Later in the film, reality kicks in and Calvin learns that, even though Ruby was created by him, she also is an actual human being sounds familiar?,  a person who has feelings and ideas and someone who is not just part of a fantasy. He could try all he wants to change her and expect her to love him back because he’s nice, but, in the end, she is a woman capable of making her own decisions, not someone who Calvin can tamper with.

In Comet, Dell (Justin Long) falls instantly in love with Kimberly (Emmy Rossum) and immediately makes everything he can to woo her. At first, she is not convinced at all and tells him she’s not ready to date, she’s not someone who sees herself spending the rest of her life with someone else.

Eventually they start to date and we see how their story develops in multiple timelines. We also get to see how this relationship was doomed from the very beginning and how it crashes and burn in each and every one of the timelines.

Dell tries to convince Kimberly he is the man of his life, the man who will prove her wrong, the man who will always be nice to her. He tells her that in each and every universe and story they share together. The real problem, though, resides on his stubborness and unwillingness to hear her, to acknowledge Kimberly and her decisions. Once again, the woman is not a an actual person on the nice guy’s eyes, she’s just the idea of what he wants her to be.

As we can see, the nice guy usually lives in a delusional world where his fantasies are attached to the reality he’s part of. He really is a product of the films he lives in. I could perfectly see Tom, Calvin and Dell watching rom-coms and living their life by those depictions of the nice guy.

What’s really interesting is the way these three films use different narrative devices to explain the world their nice guys live in, (500) Days of Summer uses a narrator that gives us instant access to Tom’s mind, Ruby Sparks brings Calvin’s fantasy to life with Ruby, and Comet exploits multiple timelines to evoke Dell’s confusing grappling of reality.

Thus, the real problem with the nice guy as a character is his representation as someone who has null interest in knowing more about the person he has a crush on. He is in love, yes, but he bases his infatuation on the idea he has of the woman, and how she should be, not on the actual individual.

To reproduce this type of depiction is to keep acknowledging that women must date someone just because they are nice and not because they should try to make an effort to know them really. Someone who is willing to see them as  fully formed human beings with an own voice, and not a deranged fantasy that lives only in the nice guy’s head.

La falacia de la mujer protagonista en el cine

Hollywood tiene algo claro: los personajes femeninos empoderados venden. Solo con echarle un vistazo a algunas de las películas exitosas de los últimos años (sobre todo si se trata de franquicias) como The Hunger Games, Mad Max: Fury Road o Rogue One: A Star Wars Story nos podremos dar cuenta de ello.

Tuvieron que pasar muchos años, y diversas peleas dentro y fuera de la industria, para que los estudios comenzaras a ver a las mujeres como algo más que objeto de deseo de los hombres. Ahora es posible encontrar a personajes femeninos que vivan fuera del imaginativo popular y ser protagonistas al mismo tiempo; eso es, sin duda, algo digno de celebrar. Los personajes femeninos pueden -y deben- llevar historias completas en sus hombros sin problema alguno.

Me encantaría argumentar que esto es suficiente para que exista equidad de género y representación femenina suficiente, pero me estaría mintiendo. Es cierto que hemos avanzado mucho, sin embargo, es necesario hacer un especial hincapié y detenernos a pensar en la forma en la que este avance se ha hecho.

Sí, ahora contamos con una mayor representación femenina en las pantallas grandes y sí, ya tenemos mujeres protagonistas dispuestas a llevar historias que antes no eran consideradas dignas de su género.

El problema, en realidad, no radica en la extraordinaria construcción detrás de Katniss Everdeen o de Furiosa, sino en la existencia de otros personajes femeninos que tratan de imitarlas, aprovechando la tendencia actual por representar mujeres fuertes, pero que terminan perdiéndose en esencia.

Ahora tenemos a la muer fuerte, empoderada y con agencia suficiente para mantener una historia donde sus decisiones repercutan directamente en la trama, pero, al mismo tiempo, tenemos a esta misma mujer cuya existencia en la película depende enteramente para validar al personaje masculino (sea protagonista o no) y a sus decisiones.

Aurora, el personaje de Jennifer Lawrence (quién también interpreta a Katniss en The Hunger Games) en Passengers es la representación perfecta de esa idea. Al principio de la película es presentada como una chica independiente, con motivaciones y metas fuertes que la llevan a tomar la decisión de cambiarse de planeta y comenzar su vida de nuevo allá.

Algo que pierde por completo cuando Jim (Chris Pratt) decide despertarla para no estar solo en lo que resta del viaje, es decir, una vida completa. En un momento de la película, Aurora se entera que su despertar no fue accidental, sino a causa de Jim.

En cualquier otra situación de la vida real, una persona común y corriente se sentiría traicionada y herida al enterarse que otra persona literalmente la condena a vivir encerrada. Aurora se enoja, pero al poco tiempo lo perdona e incluso decide olvidar su vida en el nuevo planeta en favor de quedarse con el hombre que ama.

Sus decisiones, antes de conocer al personaje de Chris Pratt, dependen enteramente de ella y de nadie más, pero al momento en que se encuentra con él, comienzan a girar a su alrededor. Todo lo que ella hace es en función de validar a Jim como persona, como ingeniero y como amor de su vida. Aurora termina siendo definida por su relación con Jim y no por sus decisiones.

Lo mismo sucede con el personaje de Maru, intepretado por Karla Souza, en la película mexicana Qué Culpa Tiene El Niño. Maru es una mujer con decisiones propias, ella decide seguir adelante con su embarazo no deseado, no porque Renato (Ricardo Abarca) se lo pida, sino porque ella quiere hacerlo.

El problema radica, más bien, en las acciones que suceden a esta decisión, cuando comienzan a girar en torno a renato y su felicidad, mientras que vemos a Maru pasa de ser protagonista de su historia a espectadora. Para la mitad de la película la narrativa comienza a transformarse sutilmente hasta que llega a un punto en el que  Renato secuestra la decisión inicial de Maru y la hace propia.

Al final, Maru y Renato tienen el bebé y él se corona como el héroe de la historia que mantuvo sus convicciones intactas mientras que Maru se pierde en el fondo, al pasar de ser una portadora de voz y agencia a convertirse en un mero receptáculo de reproducción humana.

La invisibilización de las mujeres en la sociedad -y en consecuencia, en el cine- no es algo nuevo. Por mucho tiempo, incluso en la actualidad, han sido constantemente despojadas de agencia y voz con el afán de tomar papeles dependientes a los demás que les den presencia.

Así, vemos cómo estos dos personajes comienzan su historia portando un nombre y una agencia propia, para terminar al final de la película siendo un dispositivo de validación más, y objetos de sus contrapartes masculinas, “el amor de la vida de Jim” y “la mamá del bebé de Renato”.

Son mujeres a las que se les da agencia, pero no autonomía. Mujeres fuertes que pueden ser protagonistas y llevar la historia principal con facilidad y sin problemas, pero aún necesitan de una presencia masculina a la cual institucionalizar. Mujeres con voz, pero sin credibilidad alguna.

La representación equitativa de género en el cine no significa simplemente tener un personaje femenino que parezca ser fuerte, y que cubra las necesidades básicas de cualquier filme. También significa crear una narrativa acorde a la construcción del personaje, que la valide, e institucionalice, más allá de su aparición.