Agustín wants Diego to come to the factory every afternoon. He doesn’t tell him that he has to, but it’s what he wants. “Hard workers are rewarded here,” he says. “It’s up to you. You can run your own office.” Agustín wants Diego to take charge, to work hard. He’s more trying to encourage him more than force him.
“Did you talk to your sister?” Agustín asks, without much of a segue.
“I haven’t seen her,” Diego replies. Um, you did last night. Saw a bit more of her than you should have, actually. But I suppose he must be talking about earlier that morning.
“You have to talk to her,” Agustín says. “Otherwise, who will?”
Um, I don’t know, how about YOU? It’s just like you buddy said, Agustín – you should talk to them. Agustín always sends Diego to do his dirty work with Andrea. (No double meaning intended.)
There’s more to Agustín’s sexism than treating his children differently with regard to their careers. He says, “It’s not to make her think…A woman who thinks is a man!” And he laughs. I thought that there was some sort of play on words that does not translate to English because he seems to think it’s funny and it’s just not, even aside from being offensive. But I’m not sure anymore. He says to Diego: “Good one, huh? Laugh for God’s sake! Always the same expression.”
“I’m happy you’re here, champ,” Agustín says warmly. The translator tried with “champ”, but I’m not sure it’s working. Agustín puts his hand on Diego’s cheek lovingly. “Do you want a soda?”
LOL. Here, have a soda. It will magically make you happy to work here.
Diego does want a soda, as it turns out.
This scene offers one example of the way the story is told through the camera work and editing and the framing. Diego and Agustín speak to each other, but do not appear in the same frame until the end. It’s a continuous take, even though we change perspective between them. Agustín speaks to Diego as if Diego is walking beside him, but then the camera pans forward and Diego is in front of him. Then Diego speaks as if Agustín is standing beside him, but then Agustín enters the frame as if he had been in front of him.
It’s warped. A “rupture in continuity”. It’s very interesting and different. And it serves, I believe, to show the distance between them. The separation. It reinforces this idea that these characters are on their own islands. The more I think about it, the more I love it. And each character speaks several lines while offscreen (this happens elsewhere in the film, like when Diego is in the pool), which makes us feel even more the distance between them.
We cut to him sitting in a boardroom listening to a meeting, bored to tears and actually loosening his collar he feels so suffocated. I don’t know if it’s just that he hates it, or whether he feels overwhelmed and perhaps just not up to the task. Afraid he cannot live up to what his father expects. I know I would be scared. His facial expression is most like annoyance, but he’s wringing his hands nervously.
We cut again, back to Casa Agustín. It’s unclear how much time has passed. It could be another day entirely but I think it’s most likely the same day. Andrea is seated on the sofa. We can see the reflection of Diego in one of the glass doors – he’s on the phone with their mother.
In my discussion of the camerawork earlier, I mentioned that when we watch Andrea, it’s sometimes framed in a sort of voyeuristic way. In the case of this scene, the sofa is at the center of the frame and remains so the entire time, no matter where Andrea and Diego are or what they are doing. The camera doesn’t follow them, we just see what we happen to see. Sometimes we only see them from below the shoulders, sometimes we only see their reflections. It’s almost like we’re looking at them through a crack in the fence.
“Yes, Mom, everything’s fine,” Diego says into the phone. This causes Andrea to stir from her thoughtful stupor and look over at him. “I went to the office. He took me around the factory,” Diego continues, speaking to their mother. He sits down on the armrest of the sofa. “Yes, Andrea is fine.”
“Well?” Andrea asks.
“She wants to know how you are.”
Diego rises and stands in front of her. (I don’t know what he’s wearing on bottom – are those shorts or just really loose boxers? – and I don’t know what they’re made of – cotton-y spandex? – but they are making me uncomfortable. And I just saw him getting himself off, so that’s an accomplishment.) “Andrea, why won’t you talk to her?” he asks.
This is the last we’ll hear of their mother. We don’t learn much about her – we don’t even know how long she has been divorced from Agustín. All we really learn is that Andrea is on bad terms with her (surprise surprise), and Diego talks to her regularly on the phone. (Diego seems like he would be a bit of mama’s boy. I wonder if he’s only living with Agustín to be close to Andrea.)
“Dad wants me to talk to you,” Diego continues. “He says you’re a loafer.” LOL. Another translation failure. I mean, the meaning is correct. But I don’t think someone Diego’s age would say “loafer”.
“I work and make money,” Andrea argues. And we did see her do some modeling, to be fair. “He can fuck himself,” she finishes.
“He wants you to do something else.” Diego sits back down on the sofa. (I wish we had heard the original conversation in which Augustin had aired his grievances to Diego about Andrea. As it was, we only heard that he wanted Diego to talk to her. Is Agustín opposed to her modeling because it’s modeling? Or is it just not enough?)
“I don’t know. But just listen to him, so he’ll leave me alone.”
I’m surprised that Diego doesn’t react at all to the idea of her getting a husband. I guess he knows her well enough to realize that she wouldn’t get married just because their father wanted her to. And I’m sure Diego knows their father well enough to realize that he wouldn’t expect her to do that. At least, that’s my impression of Agustín.
But I’m not surprised that Diego is getting really tired of being the intermediary between Andrea and their parents. Particularly their father, who is so hard on him, and yet cowers in fear of his daughter.
“Do what he says,” Diego urges her. Which really shows us Diego’s mindset. I can see why Andrea is always teasing him for his “Sí, Papa”s. He’s a yes man. (It’s interesting that she was so lighthearted about it at breakfast, because it would cause some major tension between them if he was always obedient and she was always willful. Then Diego would be the “good” one, and Agustín would always be saying, “Why can’t you be more like Diego?”)
“Like you,” she says, coming over to stand in front of him.
I’m not sure that she really has a point here. Agustín is hardly a hypocrite. Is his relationship with Elisa being referenced here? Maybe Andrea has bad feelings towards the divorce. I don’t know. Diego settles into a more comfortable position on the couch, and Andrea drops in right beside him. She definitely takes the spot most immediately adjacent to him – their arms would have been overlapping no matter what – but Diego subtly scoots his butt and leg over a little so that their thighs are flush. (It’s not something that Andrea would have noticed – even if she was a more observant person – but it’s pretty clear to a viewer who is paying attention. And it’s hilarious.)
He rolls his head to the side to stare at her for a moment, of course. He runs his eyes over her whole face, devouring it – a typical cinematic expression of love. When you’re not in love with someone, you pretty much just look at them. You don’t run your eyes all over them. Well, that’s my takeaway, anyway.
“Is that how they want us to end up?” Andrea asks. “Married with kids.” We know she’s particularly sensitive about this topic because she has a bun in the oven. Diego is feeling suffocated by the job at the factory, his grim inevitable fate, and Andrea feels the same way about having a child and being a wife. Whether they’ll ever want those things, it’s clear right now that they’re not ready.
“You think they’re happy?” Andrea asks.
Diego shrugs. “I don’t know.”
Diego looks at her face again, and then lays his hand on her thigh (on top of her skirt). It’s definitely meant to be a comforting gesture, though I’ve no doubt that he’s motivated largely by getting to touch her. He fingers her skirt a little bit.
“What?” she asks.
“To Lima?” she asks.
“No, not Lima. No way.”
“I don’t know,” he replies.
“Tell Ramon to take you to your friends,” she suggests tiredly. “They must be up to something. I’m going out.”
Going out with friends is her solution to everything. Diego has got-to-get-out-of-here-itis (and as Andrea correctly assumes, he doesn’t just mean get out of the house for the night, he wants to get OUT of here) so she tells him to go hang out with his friends. And she’s ready to terminate her philosophizing and baby drama by going out with her friends.
It’s nice that she’s trying to help him feel better, even if it’s half-a$$ed and also misguided. From what we know of her so far, it’s not like her to make any effort at all. AT ALL.
During this bit of dialogue she places her hand on top of his, and then plays with his thumb. She has been staring ahead of her like some kind of robot since she sat back down on the sofa and continues to do so, but this gesture accompanies the sympathy in her words, even if she won’t show it on her face.Diego watches her playing with his hand raptly, mesmerized by the touch that she has initiated.
She didn’t seem to think anything of his hand resting on her thigh and playing with her skirt, and now she begins this contact, which is sort of understatedly affectionate. (Understated with any other person – for Andrea it speaks volumes.)
It’s also doubtful that she ever has conversations like this with her friends, especially since we already know that she considers them to be her escape.
After an Elisa scene, we rejoin Andrea, who is hanging out with two of her female friends around the pool. It seems that they’re discussing the hypothetical situation of being pregnant.
“Why?” wonders Pink Suit. “He’d just kill you!” (I presume she’s wondering why one would ever let their father find out.)
Then Andrea asks when it will begin to show. Floral Suit says six months. But Pink Suit suggests some sort of stomach-hiding “band”, which Andrea interprets as a corset and they all laugh.
“Or you get rid of it,” Floral Suit points out.
“Well, yeah! What would you do with a kid?” Pink Suit echoes. “Your life would be screwed.”
“You’d only think of your kid,” Floral Suit adds. I knew I liked her. She would be a responsible parent.
“No one would ask you out,” Andrea says. LOL. I see where her mind is at. She should also be worrying about her modeling figure. Clearly these are the most important things.
“Obviously. Your tits would drop to the ground,” Pink Suit says.
Floral Suit then turns serious and says that it’s horrible having an abortion. (I think she means it’s a horrible experience. She’s not condemning the act.) Pink Suit follows that up by a graphic description of the procedure. (Though I’m pretty sure it’s not what’s in the medical text book.)
“What’s why you’re careful not to get pregnant,” Pink Suit says.
“Well it depends who knocks you up,” Floral Suit argues. I’m not sure what she means. Unless he’s talking about locking in some great catch. Or maybe she, unlike Andrea, could see herself happily married with children someday soon, as long as it was the right guy.
“What if you don’t know?” Andrea asks.
But Andrea laughs. A weird mixture of sheepish and totally pleased with herself. Then she looks down at her stomach, finally cluing both of her friends in to the fact that the discussion is not hypothetical.
Her friends keep asking her who the father is and she just laughs.
This girl is so messed up.
We jump to later that night. The girls are now at a club. They’re sitting at the bar, looking at the men on the dance floor while Andrea lists the possibilities for who her baby daddy could be. She’s got the conception narrowed down to a period of three weeks between Christmas and mid-January. (I was super confused about the timeline until I remembered they were in the southern hemisphere.)
Andrea/Anahí looks incredible during this scene. I mean, yeah, she’s a pretty girl. But lime green is totally her color, and her dress is so cute (polka dots!), and I don’t know about her red necklace but it just works somehow, and her earrings too. And she’s got on purple eyeshadow which is just perfect on her face. And I’m not a huge fan of her haircut, so it makes a big difference to me when she has her hair up. Plus I also think it looks better pulled away from her face, which is a rare opinion for me to have. Why do you care? You don’t. But just look at her!!!
Her friends are listing parties and what trysts they know about from that time period. Andrea shoots them down – with this guy she had a rubber, at that party she went to bed early. The girls laugh and say she was too trashed to remember where she went or what she did. They narrow down the probability to one party in which Andrea was, apparently, all over Caregol! (Their faces are priceless.)
Andrea is in denial, but the girls are certain that she slept with him.
I’m not sure if we’re supposed to consider Caregol the definite father or not. But Andrea seems to have made up her mind that the father doesn’t matter. She’s now looking for some ecstasy. The girls joke that maybe she’ll kill the baby with the drugs. Even Floral Suit! I’m so disappointed in her.
Diego hears the noise. He was lying in bed. Possibly asleep, though his light was on and he rouses rather quickly. (I think he was just laying there, maybe having trouble falling asleep.) He’s wearing the same thing as earlier, including those hideous gray shorts (which he is apparently going to sleep in), so I’m guessing the second half of his day was not very active.
He sees Ramón when he gets to his door.
Diego thanks him, and he leaves.
Diego just stands in the darkness of the corner for a moment, looking at her. Not gonna lie, it’s like something in a horror movie. I think he’s definitely giving off some predatory vibes right here.He sits down on the edge of the bed, and looks at her some more.
I realize that on certain levels that gesture is just über creepy – the juxtaposition of him doing something so sweet with the extremely hurtful and utterly selfish act that (almost) follows it. But I don’t think the gesture was put in there to make it creepy the way it might be if an antagonist had done it, I think it was put in there to show that Diego’s motivation for the rape cannot be isolated from his more tender feelings for Andrea. I’m not troubled by that contradiction. What I mean is, I’m able to comprehend how both things can be simultaneously true.
Then he hesitates for a couple of seconds, but desire overrides his better judgment. He gets the dress off over the top of her head by pulling her up against him. Then he maybe hesitates again, or maybe he’s just savoring the moment. It’s unclear. He spends the next few moments just running his hands over her back and butt.
I’m not sure at what point he decides that he’s not just going to take her clothes off and feel her up, but I don’t think it was his plan from when he first saw her to rape her. I really don’t. I’m sure he had thought about it, though.
He tries to position her on her back, but she’s moaning and semi-conscious, and resists, rolling back onto her side. He forces her onto her back again, but she lifts her hands up and asks, “What are you doing?” drowsily. She’s still totally out of it. I’m pretty sure she never opened her eyes. But she’s pushing him away. He fights with her for a few seconds trying to get her to stay on her back, and then collapses down beside her, burying his face into the bed, crying. I strongly believe he’s crying in self-loathing and disgust and all that, but I’m willing, for the sake of objectivity, to consider the possibility that he’s so frustrated that he didn’t get to go through with the rape that he’s actually crying about it.
Andrea rolls her head towards him and clumsily ruffles his hair. “Hey, calm down,” she moans. “Go to sleep.” I don’t know if she knows it’s Diego or if she just wants this dude next to her to chill out.
So would he have gone through with it if she hadn’t become semi-conscious? I’d say yes. If I had to choose, I’d say yes. But I think there’s a big difference between taking her dress off and feeling her up and actually, you know, penetrating her. I think it’s a big enough step that maybe he would have hesitated again, and decided not to do it. In this situation he can still turn back at any point without any consequences. And if he had been absolutely determined to do it, he could have easily overpowered her. There would have been a greater risk that she would remember it, but it would not have been at all certain. That’s it. Those are the only excuses I’m going to make. I mean, it’s clear he feels like sh!t about what he did last night and then what he almost did this night, but if he really feels like he can’t control himself then he should keep away from her or tell her or seek help.
We join Andrea and Diego at breakfast. Again, I can make an assumption about when it takes place (the following morning), but I can’t be absolutely sure. They eat side by side in silence. They’ve both got a lot to think about. Diego attempted to rape his sister and Andrea might be carrying Caregol’s baby. (She’s also probably really hung over.)
It’s so disconcerting, the way it seems like the attempted rape never happened.
I’m not sure if we’re supposed to compare and contrast with the breakfast scene from earlier in the film. Obviously this one is much more somber. They’re both dealing with some pretty serious issues that we didn’t know about at breakfast #1.
SCENE 12 We cut to Andrea pondering in front of the angel baby. And then we see her sitting in her bedroom at the Lima house in the dark, pondering some more. I’m a little confused about this sequence. Because then we cut to her talking to her father. My best guess is that she went back to the clinic, planning on having an abortion, and then changed her mind at the last minute and went to talk to her father. I don’t see why else she would have another obstetrics appointment only two days later. I’m sure the angel baby is a sort of external representation of Andrea’s second guessing of her decision to have an abortion.
I’m 100% pro-choice, no matter how far along the pregnancy is, but I do think Andrea’s reluctance and ultimate decision not to terminate her pregnancy shows the hint of a real person inside of her somewhere.
Andrea: “What should I do?”
Agustín: “What? Do you want to be a mother?”
Agustín: “What then? An abortion? At three months?”
Agustín: “You can’t keep this baby.”
Agustín: “What would you do with a kid?” He thinks for a minute. (He has just repeated Pink Suit verbatim.) “You have to leave now.”
Andrea: “Where to?”
Agustín: “Wherever you want.”
Andrea: “To Miami.”
Agustín: “Go back to Lima and pack. I’ll take care of the rest.”
Andrea: “How am I going to live there?”
Agustín: “The same as you do here.”
Andrea: “Exactly the same?”
Agustín: “Don’t worry about a thing. Exactly the same.” (He says this heavily.)
Agustín is a hell of a lot nicer than Pink Suit’s father. His response was far from killing her. He’s not even angry! I’m so glad that Andrea eventually turned to her father. She asked him what she should do. He was willing to consider every option.
But I hope he’s planning on hiring some sort of sober companion to be with Andrea! This kid is going to be in serious danger of health complications if Andrea doesn’t stop getting intoxicated.
Agustín then tells Elisa the plan. She agrees to play the part of the mother if Agustín will marry her, and if she can go be in Paris while she’s pretending to be pregnant, and then she doesn’t want to have to take care of the baby.
She’s a real saint.
I find it sort of hilarious that this unfortunate thing happens – an accidental pregnancy – and Andrea and Elisa use it to get everything they want. As you’ll see later, Agustín is quite excited about the child. It’s a win-win-win situation. There are two losers – Diego, because Andrea is leaving, and then, of course, the child, who won’t have a mother. (But if it’s essentially Nelly who raises him, then he could do a lot worse.)
[I’ve only just noticed this now, but several other familiar faces on the dance floor are revealed upon careful inspection. Caregol will become a bit more prominent in a minute. Gamer Ginger is identifiable in a second circle behind Andrea, and Floral Suit and Pink suit are there as well. Shell-Shirt doesn’t seem to be out tonight. It seems that Ginger at the very least can be grouped in with Andrea’s friends.]
Like before, he’s standing off to the side, just watching, super jealous. We’ve seen a pretty big mix of emotions before when we’ve watched him watch her, but right now I think it’s just pure misery for him. There’s been some anger and disgust before but he really seems to just be miserably jealous right now.
If you’re actually still reading this then you are in for a treat, because Diego is about to start dancing. It seems he has reached some sort of breaking point. I don’t know if he just can’t stand on the sidelines and watch anymore, or whether what he nearly did the night before has scared some sense (operative word being “some”) into him and he’s going to try for something real.
I can’t watch Diego dance without laughing hysterically. In fact, just the anticipation sends me into giggles. I mean, the next time I have a really bad day, I’m just going to pull out this movie and have a good laugh. It’s not that he’s a bad dancer – he’s actually quite good – it’s just that his moves are ridiculous. So blessedly, delightfully ridiculous.
He joins the dancing crowd and then makes his way over to where Andrea and the Suitors are. Despite earlier ice-cube related tensions, the guys welcome him into their circle like him joining them is the greatest thing that has ever happened. (Pink Suit also seems pretty happy to see him.)
I suppose I agree.
Suitor 2, who is wearing suspenders tonight (it almost makes me like him more – I LOVE suspenders), actually ruffles Diego’s hair (I guess no one can resist that fro) and then actually pushes Diego towards Andrea.
And then it gets better: Suitor 2 grabs the arm of Pink Suit and pulls her towards him. (Remember how they were curled up the other night?) Suitor 1 and the others have all backed off significantly. So Diego basically has Andrea to himself.
She spins around – her basic dancing pattern is just to slowly turn around her circles. (Haha, so is mine.) And when she spins back around to Diego, he’s doing a fair imitation of the part of the chicken dance where you twist down to the ground.
Suitor 1 and Suitor 2 and Pink Suit fall into place around Andrea, and Caregol, who has been all over, migrates over to round out the outer circle, while Andrea spins in the middle and Diego circles her. It’s like cogs in a clock!
Caregol is by far the worst dancer, but he doesn’t seem to give a frak so it’s OK. He’s not trying to dance cool, he’s just having fun. Suitor 2 seems to think he’s in a mosh pit. (It must be the Mohawk.) Both he and Suitor 1 are attempting to be smooth but failing. Despite Diego’s Saturday Night Fever entrance (which was always rhythmic, just sort of…outlandish), he’s now the only one (aside from Andrea) that doesn’t merit being made fun of. (Ginger and the Suits have been edged out of the frame.) I’ll explain about the music in a few paragraphs, but because the music we’re hearing isn’t the music they’re hearing, it’s hard to gauge just how badly they’re dancing, but I feel like it’s a safe bet to say that Suitor 1 has absolutely no rhythm. Also, rule of thumb: it’s only OK to jump and clap when everyone else is doing it too. It’s a good thing that in all the time Diego spent watching Andrea dance with these other guys, he never decided to try and dance like them.
OK, so I had fun making fun of them. But I subscribe to adage “Dance like no one is watching”. I’d rather be dancing with someone who’s having the time of their life than someone who just looks good doing it. And some people just can’t dance. And that’s OK. They should do it anyway. I love dancing, I really do. I’m going to start using Diego’s moves.
In the first scene, Andrea’s dancing with Suitor 1 was only slightly more sexualized than what she does with Diego here, and only because their faces were closer together the entire time. (Diego and Andrea’s faces do get as close together as Andrea and Suitor 1’s did in the first scene, they just don’t remain that close the entire time that they are dancing.) The actual movements of their torsos were less sexual. She doesn’t really dance with Suitor 2 in the first scene, she just makes out with him. In this scene, Andrea makes no distinction between the three guys. The way she is dancing with Suitor 1 and Suitor 2 before Diego comes over and joins them is no different than how she dances with Diego.
Knowing that Diego wants this moment to be as sexual as he can get away with, I kept waiting, the first time I saw this scene, for Andrea to be bothered or put-off some way by how close and how sexual he was getting and turn away from him or fasten herself to one of the other guys, but that never happens. She never reacts negatively to anything Diego does, and in fact smiles at him or laughs at/with him almost the entire time.
She responds to Diego’s dance moves (which is to say, she moves in a compatible/complementary way), but doesn’t dance in accordance with any of the other guys, as far as I can remember. And she never seeks out one of the other guys to dance with instead of Diego. When the others fall away, she takes no notice. She’s satisfied dancing with Diego.
Of course, if Diego had put his hand on her hip or grabbed her a$$ or something I’m sure she would have shaken him off at the very least, the way she did when he was kissing her leg. Even if she wouldn’t have ultimately minded it, I doubt she would have put up with that in a club full of people, especially one that’s full of her friends and slam pieces. Though I can’t help but wonder what he could have gotten away with.
So I mentioned the music earlier. The music in this scene while Diego dances compels us to find it meaningful. So I’m going to spend the next few paragraphs discussing that.
There are basically four pieces of music that recur throughout the film. 1) the techno beat I mentioned earlier, which is Christian Berger’s “Square Roots”, (his song “Only 5 Left” also appears more than once, but only ever as background music in the club) 2) a piece I’m going to call the Billie Piper song, since that’s what it reminds me of, 3) a sort of lullaby/music-box-sounding piece, and 4) “Tonada de la Luna Llena” by Simón Díaz, (“Tune of the Full Moon”).
Original music for the film was composed by Leonardo Barbuy. I’m guessing that pieces #2 and #3 are definitely his. (From the credits, it seems like there are two different versions of a piece called “Mirando a los Dioses” or “Looking at the Gods”, that he composed. There’s a lot of meaning in that title.)
I have been trying to decipher the theme connected with each song. And struggling, at times. The reason why it’s of particular interest is because the music really stands out in some scenes, and in some scenes, like this one, it’s more than that: it’s clearly important.
For example, piece #2 (the Billie Piper song), plays during that moment by the pool when Andrea just sits down in the chaise lounge and goes to sleep. The soundtrack is very prominent during that moment. The only other time we hear that piece is a scene of Elisa and Agustín coming home to the Lima house after a night out. It’s a montage while they walk through the house, undress, and lie down to go to sleep. There’s the sleeping connection, but that doesn’t yield any meaning as far as I can tell. I suppose there’s the fact that Agustín and Elisa doesn’t talk or anything. They just get home from their party and go straight to bed. Or the theme could be related to a sort of deep dissatisfaction. The Andrea scene is followed by her urgently calling all of her friends, looking for someone who will go out with her. She has to get away from thinking about her life. And the Elisa scene is followed by her having a dream (accompanied by musical piece #3, the music box) in which her mother and grandmother come to visit her, and she pretends like they are hired help in front of Agustín. Her grandmother slaps her. The guilt is eating away at Elisa’s unconscious. And she’s betraying her mother and grandmother.
Piece #3 (the music box) carries over from that scene to the breakfast scene with Diego and Andrea after the attempted rape. It has an ironic quality – a piece of music associated with childhood playing while we and Diego are still reeling from such a horrendous act, a shattering of childhood. So piece #3 is definitely ironic. The horrible things we do for the horrible things that we want.
“Square Roots” occurs the most often, and is a sort of depiction of the rhythm of life moving forward as it is for the high class. Andrea partying, Diego being driven to the factory, Elisa shopping. Like they’re stuck in a limbo that appeals to them but isn’t quite right. They’re doing what’s easiest. It’s a life of compromise.
Piece #4 is the challenge. First let me say that it’s a gorgeous song. (Here’s the link again. Go listen!)
Sometimes the lyrics of a song are relevant, and sometimes they’re not. And it’s true that there are times when we hear this song in the film as an instrumental only. But I’m concerned most with analyzing a scene in which we do hear the words. And it isn’t a case where the song is playing in the background; in this scene it’s the only thing we hear. Prominent is an understatement. And as I have already said, the music in this scene has a very clear and distinct importance, because so far in all of the club scenes we have heard the techno “Square Roots” (or “Only 5 Left”), which was what the characters were listening to as well. It’s an appropriate song to be playing in such scenes. It’s a club/discotheque type song. But in this scene, that’s not the case. There’s a VERY strong contrast between the song playing for us (“Tonada de la Luna Llena”) – what we’re hearing – the soundtrack – and whatever song that the characters must be hearing/dancing to in the club.
(I feel like I’m doing a really bad job explaining something that’s really simple.)
I’m not good with poetry. And not all song lyrics are poetical, but some of them definitely are.
So this isn’t an official translation, it’s simply the only one I could find. I checked it out, and I don’t know if it’s perfect but it’s certainly good enough and better than I could do.
I saw a black heron struggling against the river,
That’s the way your heart came to love mine.
Full moon, full moon waning
Go home, boy, and fetch me the rifle,
To kill that hawk that won’t leave me a single hen.
The moon is looking at me,
I don’t know what she thinks,
My clothes are clean,
I washed them last night.
Full moon, full moon waning.
(Some of those lines repeat, of course.)
So, I’m not going to lie: I don’t really get it. Is the heron drowning? Why bother to shoot it if it’s drowning? Is he just taking the opportunity while it’s busy to kill it, in case it gets away? And why is he talking to both the boy and his lover? That’s just confusing. Why would the moon care if his clothes are clean? And what does the moon even have to do with the narrative about the heron? Do hawks really eat chickens? Cannibal birds?
So I’m obviously interested in the love part of it. Here’s my own alternate meaning-driven translation of the first two lines: I saw a dark bird fighting a river, your heart fell in love with mine in that way. It’s so unclear! She falls in love with him because he sees a bird? (Ha!) Or she’s like the bird, fighting his heart (resisting it) like the bird fights the river? Is the bird drowning or not? Because I could definitely make the analogy: Diego is to Andrea the way the drowning bird is to the water.
And then the chorus is sort of: moon, moon, moon that is full, waning.
That’s supposed to be a bad thing? I like the full moon. But then I also like it when there’s no moon so I can see the stars better. Most of the time it really doesn’t freaking matter what the phase of the moon is. So I can’t just take it for granted the moon waning is supposed to be considered a bad thing. But again, I’m being too literal and I know that. I’m just pointing out poetry issues. Outdated symbolism and imagery.
Of course the word “to wane” has negative connotations. It’s something drawing to a close, ending, fading, declining. But we are talking about the moon, in which case the decline is just part of a cycle, a rather short cycle, in fact. The full moon provides more light. Light is knowledge, sometimes goodness. Progress. Happiness.
In this song, the moon is shining on the narrator and he feels like he’s being judged. He’s defending himself to the moon, denying that he’s unclean. And he’s shooting the bird, which might be a bad thing. But the bird is a predator. Doesn’t he have a right to defend his chickens?
I can definitely see some of that applying to Diego. But not in any way that’s totally satisfactory to me.
We hear “Tonada de la Luna Llena” two times before this. Once on Sunday morning: it begins while Diego is eating the pie that Nelly gave him after he fled his father to the kitchen. Then we cut to the beach the next morning where two families who were walking have encountered each other. [It’s the view from Casa Agustín (part of the railing of the deck is in the frame), but Diego is never shown to be watching them.] They greet each other warmly, everyone is happy and friendly and loving. Then we cut to Diego eating breakfast, before he is interrupted by his father demanding that he go and retrieve Andrea. The second time is on Tuesday when Diego sits in on the board meeting and looks like he wants hang himself with his tie. Both times we only hear the instrumental part, and it doesn’t last for more than 30 seconds or so.
Of course, in this scene where Diego dances, we hear the lyrics and it lasts for minutes.
We’ll hear it (briefly, instrumental) only once more, later in the film, while Elisa goes to visit her grandmother.
So what’s the connection? Why this song? One of my first thoughts was that it plays when things are real. We see those happy families on the beach. It’s a huge contrast with the final image of the film, which is a troubling panorama of a park filled with kids who are all there with their uniformed nannies/maids. (Piece #3 plays during that part, which makes total sense.) Then we have Diego going out to dance with Andrea. He’s finally showing some of what’s actually going on inside of him and it’s paying off and he’s having a really good time. Both of these scenes are really happy as well. But the office scene doesn’t quite fit. It’s sort of the opposite. It’s Diego trying to fake it. And the lyrics certainly don’t fit with the first two scenes in any way.
It’s even more important to note the tone of the song. To me, it sounds haunting. It’s slow, but not like a slow love song. It has a different quality than that. It could definitely double as a mourning song, though I think it’s more nuanced than simply the sound of loss. Though I suppose everything bad can eventually be described as some sort of loss. But even though I used the word “haunting”, I don’t even think I want to say that the song reminds me of something bad. The quality it has could apply to someone confronting an idea that is difficult but not bad – the enormity of space and time, the shortness of life, the human condition, etc.
Basically, I don’t know what I’m saying, if you haven’t figured that out yet.
But the song stands out so strongly. We have these images of kids at a club, dancing, having fun. Even if the filmmaker didn’t want to use the appropriate techno club music, it would have still been a piece that was fast, upbeat, loud. Instead we have this haunting, quiet, slow melody about the moon. It has an effect on the viewer. I’m just not totally sure what that effect is supposed to be. I don’t want to lie to you. I could make it sound like I’m sure and commit to one idea and shipper spin the hell out of it, but I don’t like to act like I’m sure when I’m not sure.
The most shipper-friendly interpretation I can come up with is that we’re supposed to fully realize the seriousness of this moment. That’s what the contrast is underlining. If “Only 5 Left” had been playing, it might have just seemed like Diego dancing and hanging out with Andrea, a moment sort of like their food fight. They were having fun but it wasn’t particularly special. But this moment is a bigger deal than that. Something’s changing.
The importance is also highlighted by the fact that we have heard this song before as a short theme, but it makes a greater impression when it plays for several minutes on end. When we hear that song later in the movie, or after the movie, this is the scene we’re going to remember. And when we first heard “Tonada de la Luna Llena” during this scene, we already attached an importance to it because we had heard the melody before in the film and knew it served as a theme and was related to the meaning of the film.
It is also definitely incumbent upon me to tell you that while I was doing a bit of research – reading reviews, etc. – I found a behind the scenes video of writer/director Josué Mendez editing the film. He worked with the British director Stephen Frears (The Queen, Dirty Pretty Things, Mrs. Henderson Presents, High Fidelity, The Hi Lo Country, Dangerous Liaisons, The Grifters, more) through a project called Rolex, and their collaboration was documented as part of the project. In one of the videos showing them working together, Mendez is actually in the middle of adding the music to this scene. Frears brings up the club music, and Mendez reminds him that the “love song” is supposed to be the soundtrack for this scene. In another video, an interview with him at one of the film festivals, he is discussing the music of the film and mentions “Tonada de la Luna Llena” but only as it appears in this scene. So Sherlocking the hell out of what we’ve got, we can posit that however confusing I might find the lyrics and tone of the song, Mendez considers it to be a love song, and of its uses in the film, all pale (are snow white, really) in comparison with its use during this dancing scene.
So Mendez plays a love song while Diego goes and dances with Andrea.
Is that because we’re supposed to be taking Diego’s point of view here? Possibly, but I think there’s more to it than that.
One might say it has a sort of dreamy quality, but if Mendez wanted to hit that home, there are plenty more dream-like sounding songs he could have chosen. (And, as you’ll see, the song continues to play through an Elisa scene and then carries back over to Diego and Andrea, which would really kill the dream-association.)
Well, I think I’m just beating a dead horse at this point. What I really wanted to get across was the fact that even beyond Diego and Andrea having fun and dancing together (in a sometimes sexual way), the music choice clearly implies that this is an important scene – meaningful, possibly a defining moment, and also possibly a transitional moment.
“Tonada de la Luna Llena” spills over to Elisa’s scene. She’s in the kitchen, overseeing the preparations for a party she’s throwing (and looking fabulous while she does it). She’s pleased and excited. (Both Diego and Elisa are getting exactly what they want, for that moment at least.) The song carries on over back to Diego and Andrea.
OMG, he’s actually looking at something that isn’t Andrea and is actually having fun with these people he hates so much. He’s expressing interest in what Suitor 1 is saying to him!
Oops, no. He’s turning to look at Andrea. The lure is too strong. His smile is fading. (That is, waning.) It’s like he was laughing at Suitor 1’s joke, and then he turned to see if Andrea was laughing too (I think that’s almost an involuntary response with him – I do the same thing with some people in my life), and then he was either distressed to see that she was involved in a different conversation (his rival Suitor 2 is to her left) or he was simply, you know, overwhelmed by her beauty. Or maybe he was just turning to share in the in the laughter with her. You know when you hear something really funny, you just can’t wait to share it. It’s a really nice human trait.
And back at Suitor 1, though his mind is clearly elsewhere now. He seems to have made up his mind to do something.
You can’t hear what they’re saying, so you know while you’re watching that it’s the next scene that’s going to be the important one. If this was the only scene of the film you had seen, you might be thinking that the next scene would be sex. Men and women whispering in each others’ ears at clubs on TV and in movies – it usually leads to them finding somewhere more private for sexy times. I knew that’s not what we would be getting, but I couldn’t help but find the parallel exciting. Especially when they are looking at each other like that. I mean, just look! S.E.X.
Even though we don’t know what he said to her, we know what he really wants, so to see her smiling back at him like that? Sort of mischievously, playfully, FLIRTILY? It takes the mind places, you know.
And “Tonada de la Luna Llena” – the “love song” – continues to play all through this scene.
I could probably go on for paragraphs about this. About the expression on his face – how enraptured he is, how desperate, how foolish. (Especially in the cap that I used at the very top of this page.) How acquiescent and good-humored Andrea is. How close they are together! The way he’s leaning towards her. Basically just everything. Sigh.
End Part II.