A Decent Woman
Dir. Lukas Valenta Rinner
Official Selection International Feature
The Richter Scale says: “Decent” is a strange word. The dictionary defines it as conforming to recognized standard of property, taste and modesty, among other things. In order to have a recognized standard, there must first be a society to recognize it. In our society, something that is not considered “decent” is to walk naked in public. At some point in our history (depending on one’s beliefs, one could say that point was Adam and Eve) it was established that in our society, one should not be naked in public. This film by Lukas Valenta Rinner, based on a screenplay he wrote with Ana Godoy, Ariel Gurevich and Martín Shanly, explores two different societies. The first one is recognized as our own, even though it’s in some way exaggerated. The second of these is a nudist colony, in which its inhabitants experiment the freedoms that come with a body that is not covered. Between these two societies lies Belén (Iride Mockert), a housekeeper in an exclusive neighborhood in the outskirts of Buenos Aires who discovers this colony at the other side of the electric fence… a world that is slowly but surely drawing her in.
The film begins with three job interviews, one after the other, in an agency that hires housekeepers for this neighborhood where we spend most of the film. Belén is the last of these three (we never see the first two again) and we never see the person who is interviewing them. This distant and cold world in which we will spend the rest of the film is immediately established and the film keeps its audience at a distance through actors who speak in a stylized fashion, without expressing much in the way of emotions. This is a tone that Stanley Kubrick perfected in his best work to give the audience a more objective point of view and underline the absurdity of what we see on screen. Rinner highlights the superficiality of this world, as well as how strangely fascinating the nudist colony is: something entirely foreign to us that the film treats with the same distance. The members of the nudist colony are portrayed with certain animalistic features and the distance helps us see them as if they were animals in a zoo. Rinner intends for us to find a world we recognize as something absurd and a world that represents something we find strange as utterly fascinating.
I won’t reveal the ending, except to say that this film’s biggest obstacle is its pacing and tone. It’s a slow film, until it reaches a point in which these two societies come into conflict and it turns into something outlandish, some would say even cartoonish, but the film makes use of both sides of this tone to explore this struggle between what’s “natural” and what’s “decent”, and what is nudity if not a return to our natural state? Societies and rules are established for the sake of harmony and as such we repress a certain animalistic side that comes with what is supposed to be our nature (which we sometimes doubt, because we’ve been living with these codes of “decency” ever since we can remember). In the end, decency depends on the way we grew up and, once we’re conscious enough to make these decisions, the society in which we choose to live.
A Decent Woman will screen in San Miguel Allende on Sunday, July 23 at 19:00 hrs in Cinemex la Luciérnaga and in Guanajuato City on Saturday July 29 at 18:00 hrs at the Auditorium of the University of Guanajuato.
Dir. Julia Murat
Official Selection International Feature
The Richter Scale says: Why is it difficult to follow the guidelines we establish in a relationship? It sounds like it should be so simple. Two people enter into a relationship and agree to do certain things based on the needs of each person and the areas where these needs can coincide, almost like writing a handbook on how to handle this specific relationship. The complication is this: people are not tools that have a specific design and use. We all evolve through time. Our needs and desires change and for a relationship to last, it has to adapt to the changes that come up in each of the players in that relationship. This is why, whatever the initial agreement may have been between any two people, there will come a time when that agreement will no longer be viable. Brazilian director Julia Murat explores these complexities in this film that shows the relationship between a sculptor (Rodrigo Bolzan) and a dancer (Raquel Karro): both of them artists!!! When one of them is an artist it’s complicated enough, but both?
Anyway, these two individuals that the film never names (this is something filmmakers sometimes do to make the story feel more universal, though I sometimes feel it just takes the specificity out of a story that requires an interersting central couple) work in the apartment they share, which is why they’ve decided to draw a line at the center of the apartment so each of them has a space in which to work. This agreement gets complicated since there are parties in the apartment, the dancer needs more and more space for the routines she wants to accomplish, the sculptor’s work appears to have become a parody of what it used to be (according to a friend who is an art critic), and there are problems within the relationship that go way beyond the workspace, including the fact that he wants a baby and she doesn’t. The film follows these two characters through a certain amount of time and their different encounters with friends and colleagues, until it reaches a critical point in which one of them does something that could potentially destroy the relationship.
Films about relationships tend to be intimate, but Julia Murat chooses to distance the audience from this relationship by not giving them names and revealing very little about them outside of the conversations they have. Murat treats the audience like an intruder in the story of these two. We’ve been given a window into these people’s lives as if they were neighbors we’re watching through a window and that we only know through the few moments that they allow us to look. A lot of the intimacy comes from how Karro and Bolzan ground these two characters in recognizably human terms, helping us understand that we’re watching two people figure out who they are as people and as players in this particular relationship (anyone who has been in a relationship knows this is the most complicated part of it).
Pendular will screen in San Miguel de Allende today at 15:00 hrs at Cinemex la Luciérnaga and in Guanajuato City on Saturday July 28 at 16:00 hrs at the Auditorium of the University of Guanajuato.