‘A Fantastic Woman’, and a fantastic close-up of the trans experience

Posted on February 19, 2018

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Read the full article on Firstpost, here: http://www.firstpost.com/entertainment/oscar-2018-nominee-a-fantastic-woman-una-mujer-fantastica-is-a-riveting-close-up-of-the-trans-experience-4357511.html

The Berlin Film Festival is underway and the Academy Awards are on March 4, so it’s a good time to talk about Una Mujer Fantástica (A Fantastic Woman), which won Best Screenplay at last year’s Berlinale and has been nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. The director, Sebastián Lelio, made a name for himself with Gloria, a dramedy about a divorcée who refuses to give up on love. (Star Paulina García won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival.) Una Mujer Fantástica, as the title suggests, is also a female-centric story – except, this time, the heroine (named Marina) is a trans nightclub performer, and played by Daniela Vega, the first openly transgender actress and model from Chile.

This preamble is necessary because this knowledge impacts the way we watch the movie, which is – otherwise – fairly unremarkable. Early on, we see Marina with her much-older lover, a man named Orlando. For her birthday, he gifts her a ticket to the Iguazu Falls. Something about this waterfall suggests doomed romance to international filmmakers. The gay couple in Wong Kar Wai’s Happy Together break up before realising their dream of visiting these falls. As for Marina, Orlando drops dead that very night. The rest of the film shows how badly Marina is treated by Orlando’s ex-wife and son. Only Orlando’s brother shows some compassion, but it’s too little, too late.

There are few surprises in the story, but the film is riveting for extra-textual reasons. Let me lay out some scenes for you. Orlando’s son, with some thugs, abducts Marina. They smother her face with plastic wrap, which distorts her features and makes her look grotesque – this is accentuated when, after being dumped on a side street, Marina looks at herself in the window of a car. Elsewhere, because Marina’s ID card still identifies her as male, a police officer investigating Orlando’s death addresses her using masculine pronouns, and Orlando’s son – who cannot wrap his head around the fact that his father was in a relationship with Marina – asks, “Have you gotten the operation?” She replies, “You can’t ask me that.”

Continued at the link above.

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