Movies about movies tend to be just as sentimental as Cinema Paradisothe all-time tearjerker in the genre, or as biting as the most recent one Babylon. But “Lone Scherfig” finds a good balance between the love of film and the harsh world The film narrator, a beautifully made coming-of-age film about Maria Margarita, who reenacts the Hollywood films she saw at the local cinema in her small mining town. Set in the Chilean desert in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the drama benefits greatly from the sure hand and clear eye with which Scherfig edits her best films, including other period pieces An education (2009) and Your best (2016). However, the rocking script can’t quite make up for all of this.
The story is based on the 2009 novel by Chilean writer Hernan Rivera Letelier. The first version of the script was tackled years ago by Brazilian director Walter Salles and more recently revised by Spanish writers and directors Isabel Coixet and Rafa Russo. The film has the cobbled-together feel of a literary adaptation that’s too stripped down in the beginning and overstuffed towards the end.
The film narrator
A nice but small addition to the “movies about movies” genre.
We accompany Maria Margarita as she develops from a girl, played by Alondra Valenzuela in a dynamic performance, into a young woman, played by Sara Becker, who touches her. Becker’s sparingly used opening voiceover says, “I grew up in the driest place on earth,” the Atacama Desert, the site of a town for saltpeter mine workers. Bérénice Bejo (The artist) plays her mother Maria Magnolia, who reaches the limits of her life as a mother of four children and wife of the miner Medardo (a solid Antonio de la Torre). In the smaller role of Hauser, the mining company’s German manager, Daniel Brühl doesn’t have much to do other than cast knowing, sympathetic glances, but he does so effectively. With its Danish director and international mix of writers and actors, the Spanish-language film is a kind of United Nations, but at least that part works smoothly.
True to her clean, unfussy style, Scherfig often focuses the camera on a face in the center of the screen, holding it just long enough for us to see what no one is saying: Maria Magnolia’s despair, the haggard Medardo’s awareness of it. We observe what her young daughter might see without fully understanding: the way Hauser touches her mother’s hand.
The only bright spot in this family’s life is the cinema. On Sunday afternoon, they dress in their best selves and go sightseeing Paths of Glory, The man who shot Liberty Valence or Some like it hot. We see very brief glimpses of these films, along with the inevitable shots of the rapt audience, which Scherfig thankfully keeps to a minimum.
When a mining accident leaves Medardo unable to move his legs, the family can’t afford more than a movie ticket and each of the children is sent to watch the film and tell the story to the others. In episodes that add a momentary comic tone, a brother doesn’t get to the end Breakfast at Tiffany’s because “Who can understand women?” As another tells how the lovers separated on a train platform The Umbrellas of Cherbourg This results in a detailed description of the train.
But Maria Margarita is a natural who plays films with dramatic flair. One day she’ll be Jack Lemmon The apartment, in the next she’s Spartacus (well, who isn’t?). It’s never about the specific films. The calming, magical escape they provide is. Brave, The film narrator realizes that illusions cannot last.
The film was shot in the real Atacama Desert and Daniel Aranyo’s cinematography brings crisp, cool light to the dusty landscape and beige tones. This look is highlighted by the light pastel tones of Maria Magnolia’s wardrobe, a sign that she doesn’t belong in this dull life, and soon she runs away for good.
The story jumps back in time and begins to race through events. Becker takes over the role, and the adult is now a lively, cheerful woman who works as a cleaning lady and also makes money narrating films for the city and for individual clients. From there, the film neglects too many tragic twists, including a traumatic incident that Maria Margarita signals by acting out Johnny Belinda.
The film is set during a turbulent time in Chile and the slightest political undercurrent runs through most of the film, including a brief scene in which workers attempt to organize against the capitalist mine owners. These scenes don’t mean much. But near the end, the year is 1970, we suddenly hear news reports that the socialist Salvador Allende has been elected president. Three years later, Augusto Pinochet’s military coup quickly followed, events that led to violence and the closure of the mine. Despite some scenes of Maria Margarita’s brother’s political activism, the news lands abruptly, as if the real world is invading the hermetic city.
This isn’t necessarily a wrong decision; The social changes could have affected the characters in exactly this blind way. But like so many other dramatic plot twists here, it ends up too jarring to be convincing. In the end, graceful but light The film narrator tries to do too much and achieves too little to fulfill his great ambitions.