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Thursday, June 21, 2012

De eso no se habla

De eso no se habla (I Don't Want to Talk About It) is a movie from 1993 by the Argentine director Maria Luisa Bemberg. The protagonist is a young woman with acondroplasia. I had seen the movie years ago, but watching it again now in light of Belalu opened up a whole new dimension for me. I found it on Vimeo, but it doesn't have subtitles, so I'm not sure how many of you have seen or can see it.

A quick plot summary: The movie takes place in a small fictional town in Argentina during the 1930s. Carlota's mother realizes her daughter's condition when she's 2. She immediately tries to erase all references to dwarfs from the town and will not admit to anyone that her daughter is different. When she's 15, the town's most eligible bachelor, a man in his 50s (none other than Marcelo Mastroianni), falls in love with her and they get married.  Then the circus comes to town and in spite of her mother and husband insisting she doesn't go to the show, in the middle of the night she goes to the encampment and ends up leaving with them, dressed as a queen and riding a white horse.

At first I was very annoyed that Carlota essentially runs away to join the circus. As "compensation" for her daughter's condition, her mother had made sure she was well educated. So, becoming a spectacle in the circus does not strike me as much more freeing than the life she was living before, nor dignifying of her intelligence. However, the rest of the movie is inspiring. Carlota, or Charlotte, as she prefers to be called after learning French, is a strong female. She embraces and even highlights her difference, much to the mortification of her mother. One of my favorite scenes is when she stands in front of the mirror in a slip and heels with an embroidered shawl, listening to tango and watching herself dance. Her mother walks in, and horrified at Charlotte's sensual admiration for her own body, rips the needle off the record. She then goes into her room, crying in despair, while we hear in the background the needle being placed back on the record as the music resumes and, we infer, Charlotte's dance and self-admiration continues. And I love how Charlotte rides off into the sunset on her own white horse, even after scoring the "knight in shining armor."

Charlotte has grace, poise, and wisdom beyond her years. She is smart and sensual and refuses to accept her mother's image of perfection, preferring to chose her own. The other characters' weaknesses are portrayed with humor, and the movie does a good job of sketching out this small town where secrets are impossible to keep. The movie was based on a short story by Julio Llinas, which I hope to read soon to see if and how his portrayal of Charlotte differs from Bemberg's.


  1. It's a pity there are no subtitles, I would love to be able to understand it... Sounds like a very thought provoking movie.

  2. So, I have found myself thinking about this movie (which I haven't seen) all morning, says a lot about how interesting my job is.
    Anyhow, I think on the one had it sounds like a beautiful tale of self-acceptance in the face of a mother's denial, society's prejudice, and I must admit, I can relate to some of the mother's initial reaction.
    It does provide a message of caution to encourage acceptance and self worth.
    On the other hand though, while I understand that the protagonist runs off as an act of rebellion from the non-acceptance of her condition that has been imposed upon her, I have a huge problem with the whole circus dwarf thing... Her running off, almost implies that people with dwarfism are born to be circus dwarfs to show off like (despite her level of education) that and enjoy that. And all the ridicule that comes with that. I don't know what it has been like in the US, but in the UK particularly there is an almost Victorian freak show like fascination with dwarfs at the moment. Dwarf tossing, pantos, lots of reality shows and a very cruel show that recently finished (Life is too short was the title) all reinforce the prejudice and send a really bad message. And ultimately the public behaves the way they see on these shows. I think the US has been a lot luckier with your series showing people with dwarfism having good careers and being just really normal.

    1. I agree. I really wish she hadn't joined the circus at the end. I understand that in part it serves as a metaphor for a place where, amongst the members of the troupe, difference is accepted and celebrated. And it gives her the chance to see the world, something she wanted to do. However, as you mentioned, the purpose of the circus is to display them to an audience as "freaks" and "others". I really think Bemberg used the circus as that first metaphor.

      The scene with the circus is very tender- it's at night in a field, with the tents already dismantled, and she approaches a bonfire where a mother and father with dwarfism are looking fondly on their child in the mother's arms. He says to Charlotte "how are you?" and she replies, "I am very well" with clear satisfaction in her voice, as if she has finally found her place in the world. Then it's daybreak and she's riding off as a queen. We never see them perform- they are not portrayed as things to display. I should also note that after she leaves, her mother encloses herself in her house and never leaves again, while her husband's sailboat is found overturned in the river. Since his body is never found, some think he committed suicide while others spread rumors of a bedraggled man desperately following the circus around the world. So, while Charlotte finally finds a place where she feels she belongs, those who try to deny her difference are the ones who suffer in the end. The other aspect is the narrator- we find out at the very end that he is the orphaned shop boy from her mother's store. His name hints at his Muslim heritage, as Charlotte points out to him at one point, but then he denies it. At the end, he proudly accepts his difference and reveals himself to have grown up to be a teacher, implying her influence in both regards.

      The circus as her final destination is also a commentary on the options available for her in society. Realistically, what are her options at that time (Argentina in the 1930s)? The circus can be seen as an alternate society, where individuals are celebrated for their difference amongst themselves, but are not accepted by the mainstream. So, clearly there is something wrong with a society where those who are different can only find acceptance between themselves, while being simultaneously shunned and used for entertainment by everyone else.

      Regarding your other comments, I've been thinking a lot about cultural perceptions, too, and will post more about that soon. I've written a long enough reply for now ;)

  3. Thanks, your explanation really helps..., I will try and watch this film, see if I can find it somewhere in English. I think we will have a great discussion when we meet.