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Eine fantastische Frau (A Fantastic Woman, Una Mujer Fantástica)
Chile/Germany/Spain/U.S.A. 2017

Opening 7 Sep 2017

Directed by: Sebastián Lelio
Writing credits: Sebastián Lelio, Gonzalo Maza
Principal actors: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco, Aline Küppenheim, Nicolás Saavedra

Orlando (Reyes) is an older man who arrives at a Chilean club to pick up his partner Marina (Vega) for a birthday celebration. Marina is a night-club singer who performs a Cuban salsa with a beautiful deep voice, and so her identity as a musician is clear from the start.

In the course of the evening Orlando collapses and dies of an embolism, and Marina’s hold on her modest existence is immediately threatened by the police and his legal family. Marina is a transsexual who has lived in a private world with Orlando, without contact with his disapproving relatives. Now these two worlds clash, and Marina must fight for her right to mourn, to live adequately, and to develop as an artist.

I found Vega to be a powerful performer, but I got tired of the constant cameo shots of her face fixed in a kind of determination throughout the film. Surely there are other means of showing desperation and courage than just this one technique? Director Lelio has said that he was fascinated by Marina’s chameleon qualities, feminine and masculine and ever-changing, and some of this did show up in one scene or another.

But the portrait shots were repetitive and in my opinion held fast to only one side of Marina: her stubbornness and obstinacy. The hard work she must have put into overcoming her crisis and developing into a serious artist is invisible and only indirectly referenced, and yet that would have been far more interesting to follow. (Ann Gebauer-Thompson)

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