Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Movie Review: The Milk of Sorrow

The Milk of Sorrow **
Directed by:
Claudia Llosa.
Written By: Claudia Llosa.
Starring: Magaly Solier (Fausta), Susi Sánchez (Aída), Efraín Solís (Noé), Marino Ballón (Tío Lúcido), Antolín Prieto (Hijo de Aída).

The Milk of Sorrow is about the effects of sexual violence on women, and how the fear, pain and paranoia can be passed down through the generations. The main character in the film, Fausta (Magaly Solier) was never raped – but her mother was gang raped when she was pregnant with her, and the locals in her small Peruvian village believe that she has contracted the disease – “the milk of sorrow” through her mother’s breast milk. When Fausta collapses early in the film, they take her to the hospital where at first they believe that she has a large tumor on her uterus. She doesn’t. What she does have however is a potato growing inside of her vagina – which she believes will protect her from rape. Yes, I said a potato.

The Milk of Sorrow is a movie long on symbolism, but short on any actual content. For a movie about sexual violence, we actually do not see any in the movie (which is probably a good thing). The film does open with Fausta’s dying mother telling the story, through song, on how she was raped and what the aftermath was. This was during a political upheaval in Peru, where the rape of women was commonplace.

Fausta is paranoid around pretty much all men, expect those in her family. When at a party, an attractive young man starts flirting with her, she immediately gets up and walks away. When she starts a new job as a maid for a rich pianist, and the gardener rings the bell to be allowed inside, she is hesitant at letting him in – just like she will be hesitant when he wants to come into the kitchen for a glass of water. For her, every man is a potential rapist. She goes back and forth on the issue of the potato in her vagina – at first refusing to have it removed, but later wanting it to be. She wants to be normal, but she cannot let go of her fear.

Watching the film, I wanted to like it more than I actually did. Claudia Llosa is a talented director, with a definite eye for interesting shots and she gives the movie a distinctive visual look. But as a writer, she is not nearly as good. I am sure that Llosa has a point in the subplots involving Fausta trying to bury her mother (something, I’m sure, about burying the past), or with the storyline involving Fausta’s female boss, who screws her over completely (something perhaps about how even women screw other women), but they are never really developed. And because Fausta is such a quiet, distant character, I had trouble relating to her – and truly caring about her.

The Milk of Sorrow is an interesting movie, but for me it is a miss. It certainly didn’t deserve to me nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign language film – especially when films like I Killed My Mother, Police Adjective and Mother were all left out. Perhaps women will respond better to the film then I did – I’m not sure. But what I do know is that for me, The Milk of Sorrow, was an interesting failure.

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