Berlin Diary 2: Heiresses. An undistressed damsel. And family life.

Posted on February 17, 2018


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The irony of a film’s title rarely hits as hard as it does in Marcelo Martinessi’s Las herederas (The Heiresses). In the opening scene, two women amble through a mansion, examining items for sale. (“These chairs…. Louis XV or XVI?”) Chela and her partner, Chiquita, are in debt, and the furniture they have inherited has got to go. But the point of this scene is in the framing. We observe the goings-on through half-open doors — a shot that will be repeated several times. Chela is on the other side, cautiously (even timidly, one might say) observing these others who keep invading her house. The metaphor sticks. In life, too, Chela is an observer. The more extroverted (and more controlling) Chiquita runs the household, as Chela sits in her room, painting.

The director holds his frames long enough to suggest a still life. Chela’s life, like her art, is frozen. And when Chiquita is jailed for fraud, she is forced to step out of those doors. What we are watching, then, is a gendered twist on the Hollywood staple of an oppressed woman finding her wings after the man moves away, usually aided by a free spirit. Martinessi shows us that toxic power equations exist even in same-sex couples (Chela and Chiquita seem to be in their sixties), and at first, Chela finds it difficult to cope. She wakes up in the middle of the night, rouses her maid from sleep, and asks if she heard a noise. There is, of course, no noise.

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Posted in: Cinema: Foreign