The Bride [La novia]

(Spain 2015)

I love a Latin melodrama, and The Bride definitely delivers. Adapted from Federico García Lorca’s 1933 tragedy Blood Wedding, it has all the elements of a telenovela: hopelessly beautiful characters with secrets and family drama, caught in a torrid love triangle that comes to a catastrophic head at a wedding.

The Bride (Imma Cuesta) has been involved with both the Groom (Asier Etxeandia) and Leonardo Felix (Álex García)—the sole character with a name—since the three were kids. She has a past with hunky Leonardo, who left her to marry her cousin (Leticia Dolera). By circumstances not entirely clear in the film, the Bride ended up with the Groom and is marrying him for less than noble reasons. Woefully, the Bride and Leonardo are still into each other. An ever-present apparition (María Alfonsa Rosso) warns the Bride early on not to marry the Groom if she doesn’t love him. Leonardo and his wife (and their baby) attend the wedding, and shit unravels.

Director Paula Ortiz makes some interesting choices. She’s coy about time and place, casually throwing together cars and clothes from various decades of the first half of the Twentieth Century while nothing appears to be powered by electricity. Leonardo gets around almost entirely on horse. The dusty vacant desert setting evokes an old Western film, though it could just as easily be the Middle East or Mars as Turkey (where The Bride actually was filmed). The time sequence is out of order, jumping back and forth between past and present. The whole thing moves like a dance, which I took to be a kind of nod to García Lorca’s poetry.

Luisa Gavasa is downright amazing as the Groom’s grim, venomous mother—she has the audacity to wear black to the wedding, if that says anything. Cuesta and García make a hot couple, and they have an extended sex scene worthy of a porn, complete with a flash or two of dick. Miguel Ángel Amoedo’s dreamy, sun-bleached cinematography is so gorgeous, it literally elevates the story. Shigeru Umebayashi’s score is equally gorgeous. This is a very sensual film.

The Bride has its problems, though. The scenes of the Bride’s hallucinations are pretty—lots of floating glass, ice-like daggers, and a big white moon—but they’re distractingly cheesy. The opening scene, which is actually the end of the story, comes off as superfluous; in fact, the time-jumping mechanism doesn’t add a thing. Worse, Ortiz seems to sacrifice depth for decoration. I haven’t seen or read Blood Wedding, but I’m familiar with García Lorca’s work. The Bride is dramatic but superficial—the symbolism is there, but it only hints at the weighty themes García Lorca explored. The focus is clearly on the story—not what’s behind it. So much more could have been said here: I see glimmers of statements on gender, class, mental illness, self-will. Ni modo.

96 minutes
Not rated

(Gene Siskel Film Center) B-

http://cineuropa.org/f.aspx?t=film&did=296362

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