La Llorona (film) does not get sucked in by the boggy pool of “jump and scare” horror films. It has its own character. It does not depend upon sudden background sounds to shock you. The fears are more deep-rooted. The fears take inspiration from the social and political life around us. There are enough fearsome things happening around us that we seldom need a spirit or a ghost to scare us. That should be the least of our concerns. Today our biggest fears and dangers are man-made. From the most heinous crimes to the oppression and inhuman suffering, everything is a result of the increasing lust that humans. The want for more never ends. We are never satisfied as a species. We hog on anything and everything and don’t stop until it chokes us to death. We are obsessed with money, with power and no amount of power or money seems like a good amount. In this obsessive and barbaric journey, those who are weak are crushed mercilessly.
The film story operates against the backdrop of the Guatemalan civil war. It envisions almost poetic justice because that is the only hope left for the weak and the downtrodden. We like to believe that the oppressor would one day pay for his or her sins.
Jayro Bustamante has directed and co-written the film, La Llorona with Lisandro Sanchez. Though the Guatemalan Civil War ended around the mid nineties, a State takes a lot of time to recover from such a crisis and bloodbath. The remnants of such a beastly and feral affair often shape history and even have considerable impact on the future.
General Enrique Monteverde (Julio Diaz) is charged with Genocide. There is a shimmer of hope in the Mayan community who think that justice will be served this time. They had lost a lot, in the civil war and nothing could be compared to that loss. But still when justice is served, even if terribly late, it feels like there is enough good left in the world to live for.
A veiled indigenous woman gives testimony against the army. She makes you visualize the brutality that she and many others like her saw. The court gives the decision in the favour of the indigenous people. But their triumph is short-lived as the Appellate court reverses the decision due to a lack of substantial proof. It seemed like even Justice is a luxury afforded only by the rich and powerful.
Just when it seemed that the General will get away Alma (Maria Mercedes Coroy) comes to the house as a house help. There is something peculiar about her. She doesn’t ogle but she seems to notice and see everything. The general often hears a woman weeping late at night, when everybody is asleep. But nobody believes and thinks that General Enriquez is losing his mind.
The Absence of Character in the Sub-Genre
Often it is seen that in horror films emphasis is not laid on characterization. It is more about the actor improvising in the given situation. The situations too are far from reality and often for the performers, it becomes a non-intriguing affair. The audience too doesn’t expect much in terms of acting in such films. But films like Exorcism, The Sixth Sense, and La Llorona provide a lot of meat and substance to start with. As said earlier the fears do resonate with life. These dreams seem lucid. No doubt the film makes use of age-old folklore of a woman killing her offspring or coercing the audience to believe a certain way with the camera angles and positioning. But La Llorona propagates a philosophy much deeper and darker than this.
Especially the cinematography by Nicolas Wong stands out. He makes subtle use of depth to connote a strong symbolic viewpoint. The colors too are so infused that even in broad daylight there seems no brightness or happiness.
Through the narrative, we come to know how the people higher up in the food chain think and feel about the indigenous tribes. How Carmen (Margarita Kenefic), General’s wife, blames the Mayan community for luring her husband. She doesn’t seem to find any fault of her husband, though not for very long, she does feel that these people are inferior in status as compared to them. She feels that if she is feeding them then it is a favor she is doing and that they are indebted to her for that. Human rights, equality, etc do not apply to the indigenous tribe. These character traits have been beautifully and patiently nurtured by the screenplay.
Cinema begins when a writer picks up a pen to jot down an idea and not on the post-production table. The last couple of years has seen a rise in the kind of horror films, which are dealing in characters and not on creaking doors and sound tricks. La Llorona (film) revives the long-lost art of storytelling inside one of the most loved genres of cinema, Horror. Do give it a watch.
La Llorona (film) is available for Video on Demand.
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