¡Viva! is back celebrating film, theatre and visual art from across Spain and Latin America. Digital Reporter Mo Ray reviews festival film La Novia del Desierto…
The popular proverb, ‘slow and steady wins the race’, springs to mind when I think of La Novia del Desierto (The Desert Bride), a beautiful “coming into one’s own” story. After spending decades as a live-in maid for the same family in Buenos Aires, 54 year old Teresa is forced to look back on her life and consider the endless possibilities her future could behold as she embarks on an unexpected journey rendering her somewhat lost in a desert believed to be protected by La Difunta Correa, a patron saint for travellers.
Slowly and steadily, co-writers and co-directors Cecilia Atán and Valeria Pivato not only question the meaning of home, faith and self-discovery with their compelling 78 minute debut feature, they also elegantly show women over a certain age do in fact have a place on our screens. Unfolding almost cautiously, like its main character, the film rarely loses focus on Teresa as it reveals her past in waves. Other characters are sometimes out-of-focus or not in the frame at all allowing the nuances in the unyielding Teresa’s behaviour to be truly seen and heard. Paulina García effortlessly portrays Teresa’s struggle to come to terms with her current situation with such honesty and vulnerability, the leisurely pace of the film seems quite fitting and only adds to it charms.
Light rustling of leaves, a gentle desert breeze and birds chirping cheerily fill the first few soothing moments of La Novia del Desierto until the menacing sound of a passing truck disrupts the peace (a rather fitting metaphor for Teresa’s current predicament), heralding the film’s opening scene. On her way to San Juan for her new job (don’t worry, no spoilers here), Teresa’s journey is delayed when her coach suddenly breaks down forcing its passengers to walk to a nearby sanctuary that honours the well-known La Difunta Correa. There she encounters a silver tongued salesman called El Gringo, played brilliantly by Claudio Rissi, who unintentionally exacerbates the crack shattering Teresa’s normalcy as he tries to help her. And what starts as a journey towards more of the same almost accidentally becomes one of liberation which could very well be thanks to La Difunta Correa smiling kindly on a couple of slightly unmoored travellers if you dare to believe in the myth surrounding her.
It is not often I come across a film that solely explores the lives, hopes and dreams of those in stages of life where everything is meant to have been figured out and roots firmly planted so, this was quite refreshing to see. The beauty and grandeur of the desert landscape in La Novia del Desierto gives but a glimpse of what the world can offer when you broaden your perspectives. And as you watch Teresa expand her own you begin to wonder if we can ever be too late when it comes to knowing ourselves. Slow and steady wins the race… right?
La Novia del Desierto screens as part of ¡Viva! on Thu 19 and Tue 24 April. Book tickets and find out more here.