Thursday, June 30, 2022

Sexual repression in the Costa Rican wilds

  Toward the end of the Costa Rican movie Clara Sola, director Nathalie Alvarez Mesen takes us to a quinceanera, a celebration marking the transfer of fifteen year old girls to  womanhood. The party doesn't go as expected. 
  The event takes on amplified significance for a 40-year-old woman (Wendy Chinchilla Araya) who's not supposed to be the center of attention. 
  Araya, a dancer by trade, creates a character who  seems mentally challenged, physically debilitated, and emotionally damaged. But Mesen and Araya ensure that Clara amount to more than sum of her traits. 
  Clara has a near-mystical connection with a white horse named Yuca and her mother (Flor Maria Vargas Chaves) presents to neighbors her as a woman whose one-time encounter with the Virgin Mary enables her to cure the sick. 
  The quinceanera, by the way, is being held for Clara's niece (Ana Julia Porras Espinoza), a young woman who's already sampling adult living. She's sleeping with Santiago (Daniel Castaneda Rincon), a worker who visits the farm where Clara lives with her mother and her niece. 
  Clara's story may evoke memories of Carrie, Brian DePalma's 1976 classic adaptation of a Stephen King novel. Clara's ultimate eruption stems from sexual repression, as well as from her mother's refusal to allow her to have the surgery that would have straightened her back. 
   As the movie progresses, Clara struggles with desire. She wants to experience sex and Mesen makes it clear, with help from cinematographer Sophie Winqvist Loggins, that Clara has a powerful connection to the natural world. 
  Mesen tells the story of a child of the earth who's being denied her right to blossom into womanhood. 
  All I can say is, “Watch out.”

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