The Headless Woman (La mujer sin cabeza, Argentina-France-Italy-Spain, 2008)

What I can't see can't hurt me

What I can’t see can’t hurt me

Written and directed by Lucrecia Martel this admirable film strikes me as Expressionist without the Expressionism. Verónica (Maria Onetto) is driving home from a ‘ladies who lunch’ gathering when she, momentarily distracted by her phone, hits something and bangs her head. From that moment we enter he literally ‘stunned’ world where people talk to her and often don’t receive a response; this doesn’t seem to bother them as if they never really listened to her anyway. The framing is slightly off-kilter, not enough to be expressionist; the composition sometimes appeared badly framed. I wondered if this was the transmission (via Amazon’s (boo!) Prime) was to blame but Peter Bradshaw confirms it is the case – he loved the film.

I won’t spoil but do look out for the handprints on the car window when Verónica stops the car having hit something; there also appears what looks to be a reflection of a boy.

Martel is clearly criticising the bourgeoisie who seem to be surrounded by dark-haired (indigenous?) people who try and anticipate their every need. Of course, they don’t really have any ‘needs’ as they live in a world divorced from most of the problems of ‘everyday life’; though Verónica does have an ailing aunt who’s grip on reality is less than secure, like the protagonist’s.

It’s not an easy watch as Martel doesn’t make the narrative clear. This is partly misdirection, for dramatic purposes, but also to reflect the traumatised state of Verónica’s mind. It’s a brave filmmaker who seeks to disassociate the film from its audience and in that Martel succeeds admirably. It’s a film that haunts after the viewing as the film’s purpose becomes apparent.

One Response

  1. […] Lucretia Martel (based on Antonio di Benedetto’s novel), in her first fiction film since The Headless Woman, doesn’t spell out detail; like Zama we have to negotiate our way through the world of the […]

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