Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Broken Glass

Recently I was asked to write a review of a movie, something which turned out to be far more of a pleasure than a chore. It is something I really enjoyed doing, and I thank Anna from the studio and the director, Gustavo Camelot for the opportunity. With that, here is my review:

Broken Glass, a film by The Seventh Bottle Films, 2009.
This was for me an extremely complex and deeply emotional piece, filled with many different interconnected issues which were sensitively and intelligently addressed by the creators.

We are introduced to Val (Valentina) - a woman who has grown up with her best friend Alessandra, who is in love with her.

An important backbone of the story is Val's grandfather, whose presence forms a theme that runs right through the story to the end. He was a priest and wine maker who bottled his own special wine, leaving a cache of special bottles to Val after his death, with instructions to open each one at a special or pivotal moment in her life. 

Through his magical wine, he sets the pace and progress of this exotic and erotic emotional masterpiece. It is with the opening of each special bottle of his magical wine that different aspects of this story and hidden facets of the characters are gradually revealed.

Val struggles with her own feelings for Alessandra, but after three years of capitulation to her wealthy parent's ultimatum to live a "normal" life, she is now in a relationship with a man - Steiny. To her dismay, she discovers Steiny has a male lover on the side - and things rapidly begin to unravel for her after that. 

Val, as we gradually discover, shares her physical body with a stronger masculine counterpart (Valentin), who is really in love with Steiny and will do anything to stay with him - even force Val to fall pregnant to entrap Steiny into a marriage and family. Valentin overpowers Valentina and she is forced to watch her life slipping away.

The Time Saving Agency” by Christina Engela
The TSA liked having fresh agents on the job with a clear mind and steady hand.  Time travel wasn’t for the faint of heart.  The pay was good enough, but as Scrooby had decided long ago, that even if he didn’t get paid for it, the thrill alone was payment enough.  Then again, the TSA realized they couldn’t afford to have disgruntled employees with the power of God at their fingertips, so the pay was very, very good.

Things happen at a certain time in a certain way, which in a sense, is what it’s all about.  If it didn’t, then things would be completely different. Johnathan Scrooby was extremely tense. His job at the Time Saving Agency was a tough one.  Billions of lives depended on him not screwing up.  Once, he’d screwed up in only a small way and people wore those little yellow smiley faces on t-shirts for decades afterwards.  And that was just a small screw up.

A week ago, the American War of Independence was fought in Mexico. Yesterday Napoleon managed to dig a tunnel across the English Channel, invaded London and everybody at the Agency ended up speaking French for a while. Sorting that out had been… well, challenging. Mon dieu.

Something smelled funny in the Anals of History.  Things were not as they were supposed to be. Someone somewhere was tinkering with the works. Somehow, he had to go back and fix it or who knows what might happen this time.

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Their interaction and particularly the scenes where Val begins to be portrayed by a male actor can be confusing at first - but after a few minutes you begin to understand the mechanics and it becomes a deeply engaging affair. You can feel the frustration and angst as you see Valentina looking on in various scenes, detached, powerless - from within mirrors, trapped.

Despite the sexual theme to this piece, the few intimate acts are solely implied, not enacted in every little detail. Intimacy is handled in a very mature and sensitive way, in keeping with the them of the story. The focus instead is on the emotional interaction of the characters and the great love some of them share - even Val and Alessandra's grandfathers - who one understands to have been best friends and lovers all their lives.

This story is a brilliantly conceived mix of cultures and languages, with only a little English dialog, but the interaction between the characters is universal and easy to understand, with easy to read subtitles. The viewer is transported between the now and flashbacks to the past to offer explanations why things are the way they are - but this is done in a clear, coherent and non-confusing way.

Val's grandmother is the most welcoming and tolerant of Val's relationship with Alessandra, and is a stark contrast to Val's mother, who threatens to disown Val and calls Alessandra a "slut". Val has consistently denied her own happiness to accede to her mother and father's wishes - and we see the gradual build up of negative emotions, and spiritual torment within her - as well as the build-up of courage to reach out and grasp her heart's real desire and to make it a reality.

The blood-red wine connects the religious themes of family, truth, acceptance and love through the brilliant use of imagery and metaphor in combination with the well chosen music, which takes us from Rome to Uruguay, to Montevideo and other locations in Europe. It is this magical wine, the legacy of their blood and of an older love, that leads Val to a final resolution of the conflicts within her - and in a very satisfying style we see how the process of accepting oneself brings about healing, completion and joy.

"Vidrio Roto" (Broken Glass) is director Gustavo Camelot's first feature film, which has been adapted from his novel, "Memories Of An Ideal In Coma", and is based on his multi-award-winning short "The Seventh Bottle".

Some of the topics covered in this piece were: sexuality, gender, identity, family and peer pressure to conform, prejudice and bigotry, the struggle for acceptance, alcohol-abuse and safe sex. But to me, the most obvious subject matter is the enduring nature of an abiding true love, one that stands by patiently, through good times and bad - and waits to be fulfilled. 

Alessandra is to me the epitome of this, standing by Val through their journey together, as Val struggles to accept herself. Emotions are tangible as the story progresses from the beginning, where Val at first denies past events and her feelings for Alessandra, through to the end.

Broken Glass is more than "just another gay or lesbian art flick". It stands out to me because it addresses the dual nature of all our personalities, the masculine and the feminine. For this reason, I think it should appeal to more than only gay women and men (or their friends or families) but also to bisexual people, and to the transgender and intersex as well.

The universal appeal to me is how this production approaches and depicts different sides to the same person, something which has rarely been done in this manner - if ever. And of course, for me, the most important lesson - that true love wins out over adversity - for a truly happy and satisfying ending.

This movie might not appeal to everyone, but it certainly appeals to me on so many levels. I would watch it again, and again - and will certainly add it to my own collection of favorites!

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