19 September 2005 | rowmorg
The awesome hidden power of women
This is a difficult movie mainly because it attempts to reach for an elusive subject: the enormous power of women over men, in spite of their ostensibly inferior status.
The story is so idiosyncratic that we have to believe it is drawn from the director's life, and it is told in an appropriately intense, hyper-naturalistic way.
As the meaning of the film emerges, very slowly, like watching paint dry, we realise that one lapse into temptation by an elite surgeon could plunge him into public disgrace and destroy his family and his career. And yet, the object of his momentary lust, a 15 year-old, has no idea of his fate in the all-male medical masonry hanging in her grasp, while her mother flirts with him, equally unaware but for quite different reasons.
The girl, Amalia, is receiving intensive Roman Catholic instruction, which is as peculiar and fanatical for Latin girls as any madrassah Islamic brainwashing is for boys. The instructor weeps while singing the canticles about Hell and Heaven, and impresses the girls that they will definitely have a religious vocation, and will recognise the signs. Amalia, however, has more belief in the work of her own fingers under the sheets.
The superstitious cult fills the girls' heads with nonsense and Amalia seems to think at one point that she can console and even seduce her father figure. She may well be emotionally disturbed by the divorce of her parents, and the imminent birth of twins to her unknown stepmother.
Her friend, meanwhile, is engaging in sordid anal copulation with her boyfriend, simply to keep him around, while believing she is retaining her virginity. That's the wicked work of religious morality.
I'm not sure how much women like to see themselves depicted in this unglamorous light, so the picture may well not be a hit at the box office, where the purchasing decision is often theirs. Nor is the storytelling method consumer-friendly, showing no exteriors and building characters slowly and haphazardly.