Who doesn’t want to see this film after looking at that poster, am I right?
My life has been on hold since Dioses cast its spell on me nearly a month ago when I saw this now-beloved film for the very first time. When I get obsessed with something, IT’S NOT PRETTY. And this is the result: 65+ pages in Word (ye gods!); 100+ GIFs (98% of them made personally by me); ≈450 caps (more of them individually edited than in any of my previous posts ever – I’ve been experimenting more in Photoshop!); and at least 60 additional images (I might have gone a little overboard with the reactions…). It’s no wonder that I had to split the post into three parts. (Part II is here, and Part III is here.) Is your bandwidth ready?
To anyone new to my site, please note: this is not a review of Dioses. I don’t write reviews. I do summarize, and try and outline, in each of my posts on this blog, the best and worst qualities of the topical work, and offer as objective of a recommendation as possible. But what follows from there is incoherent babble about my foolish and unconditional love for a brother/sister pairing that in 95% of cases I’m NOT actually supposed to be rooting for. (Please also note that all of my statistics are made up.) It’s relationship commentary – the stupid kind. I also, for the most part, try and write each entry in a way that someone who has never seen the film/television show and possibly never will see it can still follow what I’m saying.
In the case of Dioses, seeing the film is entirely unnecessary since I have essentially GIFfed half of it and transcribed each and every even remotely relevant conversation. (*shameless shrug*) In fact, I think the phrase “excruciating detail” probably applies.
I realized the other day, with some embarrassment, that if someone were to ask me what my favorite Spanish-language films were, I would not be able to tell them the truth. Three of them are chock-full of incest – the subject of this entry, Geminis (Twins), and Contra el Viento (Against The Wind) – and the other two – El Crimen del Padre Amaro (The Crime of Father Amaro) and Atame (Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down) – are equally intense takes on other forms of inappropriate love. (*totally ashamed shrug*)
[Quemar Las Naves (Burn the Bridges) and Daniel y Ana (Daniel and Ana) are two other Spanish-language films with prominent canon brother/sister incest storylines. I would recommend them to anyone interested in the subject of brother/sister incest and/or brother/sister incest in fiction and film, but they aren’t films that I love. (*shrug of indifference*)]
Dioses is a portrait of Peru’s isolated wealthy and superficial upper class. Far removed from the poverty of the rest of their country, they live morally and emotionally corrupt lives on their own Olympus. Our focal point is the dysfunctional family of practical businessman Agustín: his social-climbing girlfriend, Elisa – 20 years his junior; his hedonistic party-girl daughter, Andrea; and his listless and tormented son, Diego. Elisa slowly selling pieces of her soul in order to fit into her new world interweaves with the tale Diego’s incestuous obsession with his sister as they all struggle with their alienation from the rest of society, from each other, and from themselves – wrapped up in a beauty that hides the ugly emptiness of their lives.
Whatever this film lacks in originality and resolution, it more than makes up for with beauty and intelligent filmmaking. Everything from the framing and the editing to the soundtrack comes together in an absolutely stunning and meaningful way. Not to mention the glamorous setting of the beachfront villas and the attractive cast.
Bottom line: I would absolutely recommend it to all of you.
Here is the trailer in English! (But I wouldn’t watch it, if I were you. It gives away too much.)
And thank your lucky stars, because the film in its entirety is actually available for viewing through Hulu here. (Apologies to those of you who are geoblocked!) Normally I would tell you to watch the film first and then come and read what I’ve written, but in the case of Dioses, I wouldn’t necessarily insist on that order.
I need you to think long and hard about whether you want to read this post. I don’t want you to reach the end and think, “Wow, I want my two weeks back.” Because, yeah, it’s that long. It would be better for you to make the right decision now. (But I also don’t want you to miss out on my seed graphic or Chiquitoons!)
In “real life” I’m typically an empathic and self-sacrificing conversationalist. If I think what I have in mind to say might bore the person I am talking to, then I won’t say it. I won’t interrupt someone to say what I had in mind to say, even if I can see that what they’re saying will lead the conversation in a new direction. I try not to complain, or correct anyone if it really doesn’t matter. I won’t share an opinion unless I’m sure of it and can defend it, which doesn’t happen very often. I won’t make a joke if it’s too easy (I’m a bit of a snob in that way). So I guess when I write these, everything just comes pouring out. I remark upon every single thing I think about, relevant or not. Interesting or not. I make every joke I possibly can, even ones that I know are too stupid to be uttered. Basically it’s just word vomit. So I apologize for that. And I just can’t seem to liposuct my own writing.
I wasn’t going to write about Dioses – I did not think it was a great follow-up to the very rape-y Summer’s Moon because it contains another example of a brother/sister sexual interaction that is not consensual. (Diego comes very close to raping a drugged-out Andrea. I’ll just tell you that right now. He doesn’t follow through with the rape –but he still violates the privacy of her body in several ways.) Wouldn’t we all rather be talking about more pleasant things?
But…I just couldn’t resist.
I think one of the things that makes the relationship so compelling for me is that it reminds me A LOT of the brother/sister relationship in the (well, one of many, anyway) original novel that I’m working on. (I don’t know when writer/director Josué Mendez wrote his script, but I’ve been writing this book since fall of 2007, so I’ve got him beat on the release of the film, if nothing else.)
The characterizations are a little different, of course, but the dynamic and basic concept/structure of the relationship are extremely similar, not to mention small things like the characters’ appearances, social lives, and the way they dress. In some ways, it’s almost like seeing parts of my novel acted out, which is really quite thrilling.
And you have to have some seriously hardcore OTP feelings about a pairing to write a novel for them, so to say I ship the brother and sister I have created is really an understatement. I think it’s only natural that I would project those powerful shipper feelings onto a pairing bearing so many similarities, even if what’s dissimilar is quite dark and unwelcome. So please keep that complication in mind while reading this entry.
I wanted you to know from the start that the brother crosses some very serious lines with his sister so that you would know that I realize how serious it is, and I wanted you to know from the start that much of my sympathy for him and for the relationship stems from the connection I have made between them and my own dear creations.
But the truth is, I also have quite the soft spot for Diego. Is that partly because I’m writhing on the floor in a fit of lustful agony for the hot actor? Sure. But I can honestly tell you that I’m not hand-waving Diego’s flaws or wrongdoings out of some kind of male-favoritism or because I’m feeling and thinking with my uterus. If this were a genderswapped situation, with a girl in Diego’s position (let’s call her Diega) and a boy in Andrea’s position (Andreo), I would have all the same feelings and sympathies. Diega would be my poor baby.
Also, can someone please make that film?
My eternal empathy for the unrequited lover and my weakness for incestuous situations are certainly also factors in my fondness for Diego. I never said I didn’t have biases. But being fully aware of them really doesn’t change how I feel.
I think you’ll see, once I get into my (excruciatingly-detailed) description of the film, that Diego is one of the most multi-dimensional characters in the film, and is quite sympathetic.
This might be a good time to remind you that this is not an American film. Our mainstream cinema tends to have a more severe black/white morality, particularly when it comes to certain acts, like rape. And it operates on formulas and tropes and cues. When we see the guy committing a rape at the beginning of the film, we know to expect more violence and cruelty from him later on. He’s being telegraphed as evil. Bad act = bad person. I think foreign works of fiction are a lot edgier morally, and they definitely are better at portraying that a person who has done a bad thing, even a very bad thing, can still be a mostly good person. Or at the very least, an extremely complex person with both good and bad in him and capable of both. Personally, I don’t consider rape to be the one irredeemable act, the one act no one can come back from. I can think of tons more things you can do to a person that are worse than raping them, especially since rape isn’t even always cruel or malicious. (Like in the case of Diego – Andrea would not have even known that it happened.) Before you get upset, no, I’m not creating a defense for Diego based on the concept “rape – it’s not always so bad!” The action is indefensible. My point – which I deviated from a little – is that what happens in a foreign film doesn’t always mean the same thing as it would mean in a mainstream American film. Mendez might have considered it possible to go substantially further across the line than an American counterpart would have gone and still preserve Diego as a sympathetic character for his audience. And I think I’ve stated this before – but I do think directorial/authorial/actor intent matters. Canon is canon, but intent matters as well. (Just to be totally 100% clear: I don’t think at all that Mendez condones what Diego did/almost did.)
My main point is that I hope you’ll forgive me for defending Diego and for caring for him.
Now, you may find it understandable for me to have an affection for Diego, or even for him to remain a sympathetic character, but knowing what Diego almost does to Andrea, you may wonder how it is possible to still ship them.
Here’s my spiel about that: when I ship something, I want it to work out. I want it to be real. I want it to be equal. I want it to be happy, I want it to be healthy. I really do.
Speaking generally, when something happens that damages the ability of a ship to be those things, there are several possible responses. Rejecting the ship is one of them, but unfortunately, I tend to not be able to stop shipping it, no matter how bad it gets. Particularly if it’s a brother/sister situation. (Thankfully none of this applies for me in real life. As a bitter spinster, I’m actually in favor of everyone breaking up and growing old with only cats for company.)
Given my affinity for shipper spin, it’s probably understandable that my first inclination is try and take whatever bad behavior is damaging the sailability (totally a word) of the ship and make it look like it’s not that severe. NOT because I’m out to make the world a bad place where rapists and murderers wander free, unpunished and unreviled, but because I want to believe that my ship is still all of those good things.
Sometimes the justifications and rationalizations hold water. Taking compassion on someone, trying to understand why they did something – that’s never bad. Sometimes their actions can be understood, maybe even fully accepted. Or the damage done may at least not be as severe as it first seemed, and there’s still hope that the ship can overcome this obstacle and be happy and healthy and unicorns and rainbows. It’s not just a shipper’s delusion. Maybe some viewers find an action irredeemable, a moral event horizon, but that may not be the case for other viewers, or, most importantly, for the characters involved. (I believe it’s often the case that the world is often a lot more gray than we think it is. And I think there’s a lot of hypocrisy when it comes to the right and wrong of imposing your own morality and beliefs onto another person’s situation. Also a lot of biases. We want a person to have agency until we disagree with what they’re doing.)
And let’s not forget: FORGIVENESS IS A THING.
(I think there can sometimes be a schism, a misunderstanding, between people who forgive easily and those who have more reservations. I don’t mean to say one is better than the other – too forgiving and too unforgiving, they can both be bad. But I think it’s a conflict between two very different types of people – each looking at the other in confusion. There’s a polarizing disconnect.)
But sometimes the justifications and rationalizations are bullsh!t. I try to steer clear of these. But I am guilty of them from time to time.
And sometimes no attempt at justifications, excuses, or rationalizations can be made, because what one party did is just really, really, really bad. And it brooks no disagreement.
And since, as I’ve already said, I’m not really capable of choosing to no longer ship something, there’s only one recourse left to me in this case: having the brass cojones to simply say, “It’s f—ked up but I still ship it” and just owning that sh!t.
[Doesn’t mean I don’t want them to end up on a picnic with a baby, because I want sappy, happy endings for all my OTPs no matter what has transpired between up to that point. But it also doesn’t mean that I’m making a fanvid for them to “Save the Last Dance for Me”. Or am I? No, I’m not. (You’ll realize later why I picked that song.)]
When it comes to Diego and Andrea, you’re going to see a pretty confusing mixture of all of the above responses. But the most important thing for you to take away from the past ≈1000 words is that Diego feels up and nearly rapes his unconscious sister and that is really bad and totally inexcusable but I still ship it.
Now, do I realistically believe that Andrea and Diego’s relationship can move past what he has done to her (and might have/would have done to her) and onto a happy, healthy, consensual, mutual romantic relationship? Well, one of the themes of the film is that these people aren’t really capable of that, but I think, ultimately, yes, it’s absolutely possible. In fact, I really don’t think it would take Andrea very long at all to totally get over it. (Which is probably one of the tragedies of her character.) And I think Diego can grow out of the weak person he is.
I also want to state for the record that I fully realize that we’re not exactly supposed to be rooting for Andrea to return Diego’s feelings and for them to end up romantically ever after.
But, like, when has that ever stopped me?
I only saw this film for the first time around four weeks ago. (I’ve had to slowly increase that number as I’ve worked on this entry.) I stumbled across this IMDB list, and while tracking down some of the movies on it, I wound up on the WiP Films site. I was on cloud nine when I figured out that they had a brother/sister incest tag. If it weren’t for browsing it, I might never have discovered Dioses. I owe them a lot. My research on Dioses also yielded this site, which, through some humorously ironic twist of fate, has escaped my attention so far. I haven’t had the time to properly explore it, but I feel like I can say it is one of, if not the most comprehensive and user-friendly listings of onscreen incest.
[And I want to thank WiP for their brother/sister incest tag, because there are several films included in it that I might never have heard of otherwise, including this one. (And you don’t know how happy I am that their tag specifies brother/sister incest, and not just anyone with anyone.) And I have to also thank the compiler of this list on IMDB, without which I never would have wound up on the WiP site.]
There have been a couple of times since I became an incest-shipper that I have gorged myself on as many of the canon examples as I could obtain (usually following me finding a new list), and that’s always a mixed experience.
As I have lamented about I’m sure many times by now, canon brother/sister incest usually falls into four categories: 1) a brief element in a comedy, meant to be hilariously disgusting or hilariously shameless, frequently indicating stupidity, trashiness, or evil; 2) one-sided (or at least one party is disproportionately and dangerously possessive), often ending with rape, killing, or suicide; 3) mutual, but happening between a brother sister who are villains or for some reasons living on the fringe of society or considered exempt for whatever reason from conventional morality and societal expectations, often played for the creep factor and still often ending in death; 4) mutual and sympathetic, but considered destructive and/or tragic and/or ill-fated, and frequently ending in death.
See any patterns?
So some of these films and relationships are quite disturbing. The journey into the mind of a writer who brings you an incestuous relationship often yields many unwelcome and/or confusing things. (Incest is sometimes considered symptomatic of unhealthy and dysfunctional family or societal situations, which is why it often accompanies depictions of them.) Also, because it’s an unpopular subject, many of these films are made on low budgets and can be unpleasant to look at or listen to. (Sometimes this is an aesthetic choice, I realize. I realize, but I don’t understand. So I like a glossed look? So what?)
What I’m getting at is that in such binges, it can be very rare to find a film that I genuinely like or a brother/sister relationship that I actually care about. I watch all of those films looking for the select few that I will love. (And also because now that I run this blog, I’d like to be able to advertise myself as something of an expert. I might not be able to teach a class on the subject, but at least I can be the girl who has seen everything. Though now that I’ve found that mind-blowing Incest-Erotica Wikispace, it would seem I’m not even that.)
And I love Dioses. No doubt I love it a lot more than I should. (I don’t mean that I love it more than it deserves, only that it should make me more uncomfortable.) But love it I do. So that’s why I’m writing about it. And because the incest is canon, which I know my readers appreciate. And because this film isn’t very well-known, but it should be: the social narrative is important and fascinating, the characters are compelling and complex, it’s beautifully put together and just beautiful in general (as I mentioned). It’s split into two narratives which are intertwined and whose themes are related, but which are rather distinctly separated.
The narrative which I will not be concentrating on is that of the young Elisa, who is trying to leave behind her lower class background and be accepted into the high society of her wealthy boyfriend Agustín. She strives to become fluent in the trivial interests of her new “friends”, spending tedious hours studying flowers, practicing her mannerisms in front of the mirror, shopping and throwing parties. Though she is quite lonely, she distances herself from her family, dodging them when she can and lying to them. This plot is nothing new, but it’s well done.
Of far more interest to us is the second narrative, which concentrates on Agustín’s children – his son, Diego: and his daughter, Andrea (center): They are on summer vacation after university, and have come to stay at their father’s stunning mansion on the coast, which I refer to as “Casa Agustín”: (Agustín and Elisa spend much of their time in Lima – I refer to the urban family residence as “the Lima house”.)
Andrea is the very definition of a party girl – each night is an indiscriminate mix of dancing, alcohol, sex, and drugs. Diego, who is disgusted with her behavior but obsessed with her, follows her around like an angsty pet dog (is that a contradiction in terms?), taking chances with her unconscious body, only sparing time to resent his father for trying to push him into the family business. Their generation is alienated and stunted and rebellious and lazy, always chasing the next high and unable to engage in anything real.
I’m going to issue my standard spoiler warning before summing up the rest of the plot, but this really isn’t the sort of film where that matters. (I discouraged you from watching the trailer and reading the incest summary from Incest Erotica not for basic plot spoilage reasons, but because the Diego/Andrea highlights will offer more gratification if they’re earned through time.)
Andrea learns that she is pregnant. She doesn’t know who the father is and doesn’t want the baby. She makes a deal with her father – she’ll go to Miami for the pregnancy, and then he and Elisa can raise the baby as theirs, and he agrees to continue to fund her lifestyle. Elisa agrees to play her part, with a few conditions.
Diego, shaken by Andrea’s pregnancy and her indefinite move to Miami, runs away to stay with their maid (to whom he is very close) in the slums. Changed by the experience of seeing how the other half lives, the film ends with him back in school, studying psychology and sociology, and not following the path laid out by his father. But Andrea’s baby is set-up to belong to another lost and broken generation raised by maids while the parents obliviously cater to their own pleasures.
Dioses is sort of like The Hunger Games, meets Great Expectations, meets some film that takes place at the beach, meets some film about a bunch of people that just party all of the time. Meets some film about a brother who is in love with his sister.
Sorry, I spent like five minutes trying to think of examples and they just weren’t coming.
[I saw it compared to Sentimental Education (by Gustave Flaubert), but sorry I haven’t read that book.]
I’ve divided the next section into Diego/Andrea scenes, of which there are, as I have chosen to group them, essentially 15.
The film opens on Andrea dancing alone in a club to a techno beat that recurs frequently throughout the film as a sort of anthem to the frivolous, fun-loving life the upper crust leads. (It’s more complicated than that but I’ll be discussing the music of the film later on. However, to help you delve into the scene you might enjoy listening to it right now – it’s on youtube here.)
A guy approaches Andrea and begins dancing with her. Let’s call him Suitor 1. She dances with him for a little while and then lightly pushes him away. Another guy comes along a second later (Suitor 2!), dances with her for just a few seconds and then before you know it they are eating each others’ faces. (Don’t feel too bad for Suitor 1 – we’ll see him again.)
We cut to a close-up of Diego’s face. (Of course at this point we don’t know who he is. Who either of them are.)
The shot lasts for quite a few seconds, giving us more than enough time to study his shifting, intense, and pained facial expressions.
He’s not dancing or drinking or texting or standing in a circle of conversation – he’s not even pretending to do those things – he is literally just hanging to the wall and watching her dance. His attention was entirely on her, and now he’s feeling with his whole self as well. And you can tell that he’s desperate to do something, but he doesn’t know what to do – he can’t do what he wants to do.
I’m crazy about the way he looks away for half a second and blinks.
(It’s ironic that we can make such a study of his face during this span of 20 seconds, because he has a somewhat singular expression for the rest of the film, reminiscent of smelling something foul. I now call it Diego face when I make it.)
Then he decides to follow in earnest, and finds Andrea standing to the side of a set of bathroom stalls. (You’ll have to pardon my ignorance of Peruvian night club bathrooms – I don’t know if they are commonly unisex or if this the men’s restroom.)
He sinks down into the corner next to her and looks at her for a second. She has her eyes closed and is still dancing to the music. (I honestly don’t know if she has noticed that he is there or not. I think that she most likely does know he’s there. She has a habit of permitting but not reacting to his invasions of her personal space.)
In an interview, Sergio said that Diego was 17 and had just finished high school. We find out later that Andrea is 21. His body language in this scene make it clear that he is younger than her, even if it’s never explicitly stated in the film. The way he leans down against the wall and then looks up at her – it seems like it’s younger sibling behavior to me. It’s definitely submissive, but I don’t think that’s necessarily related to his incestuous feelings towards her. It’s well done. The sort of body language someone might not be aware of.
Andrea treats Diego very much like a younger brother. But I find it hard to swallow that they are a full four years apart. Particularly since Diego is often expected to look after her, as you’ll soon see, and his father keeps trying to force a career on him (17 is way too young for that!). Since Diego’s age or education level is never made clear in the film – and Sergio was at least 20 when they filmed this – it’s my personal headcanon that he’s only two years younger than her. The rule of what is canon is canon and what is not canon is not canon gives me this freedom.
Diego: “Are you going to stay?”
Diego: “I don’t know.”
We can actually mine quite a bit from this small exchange. We knew beforehand that they were brother and sister and that he has incestuous feelings towards her, but not every viewer is going to know that, and this exchange is the first indication that they already know each other and he’s not just some crazy stalker. Diego is fishing for information – he wants to know where she’s going and who she’s going with (because he is a crazy stalker, just one that also happens to be her brother). And he’s not going to stick around the club if she’s leaving – he’s obviously just there for her. She doesn’t think anything of the question, so she’s not aware to any degree whatsoever of his invested curiosity in her answer. However long he as been obsessed with her (and we have no indication of the duration of his incestuous feelings for her, except that they seem to be escalating), he has managed to keep it entirely to himself. Impressive, really.
Andrea then asks him if he’s staying. Her mild interest implies that she and Diego are on good terms but they are clearly not out together. They might have come together (in the same car) but they’re not there together, and there was never any official plan for them to leave together.
[If he was talking about sex, I would say that he had the right to approach her (in a different tone!) about his concerns for her well-being, especially as we’ll soon learn about the degree and frequency of her intoxication, but come on! – she was just dancing! (I do think he disapproves of her lifestyle aside from his jealousy, and we’re supposed to as well.]
Andrea laughs at him. “So what? Stop being a dick.”
Andrea gets annoyed: “Do whatever you want.” (She’s a very impatient person.)
But Diego entreats her to leave with him. Almost begs, really. He doesn’t want to stay but he doesn’t want to leave her there; he especially doesn’t want to leave her there with all of those other guys she could be hooking up with.
Andrea ignores him – she’s more focused on her dancing.
“You’re staying with that jerk?” Diego asks, indignant. “He’s more wasted than you are!”
I’d say he’s jumping to conclusions – who knows, that guy could be really nice – but no, the guy actually is a jerk (at least in this scene). Said guy – Suitor 2 – has good timing – he opens up the door of the stall that he is in and pulls a smiling Andrea in there with him.
I feel sorry for any brother that has to watch his sister go into a bathroom stall with some guy. I mean, that is brutal.
But it could be worse – at least they wanted some privacy.
I think it’s interesting that the first scene of the film is a Diego/Andrea one. Elisa’s story is much more straightforward, much simpler. Much more on point. It would be easy to open with something direct and powerful that was about her. The Diego/Andrea storyline is much more ambiguous (and unresolved, and contradictory, and…) – particularly a scene like this one. (What happens in the scene is straightforward, but how it relates to the themes of the film is not at all clear, especially at this point.) So I think it was an interesting choice. (Diego also has more scenes than Elisa, and they are a lot more intense. Mendez definitely puts Diego’s story at the forefront, but many of the reviews and summaries focus on Elisa, probably because her story is easier to describe and understand. The more in-depth analyses and reviews recognized that if anyone was at the center, it was Diego.)
Diego and Andrea’s father Agustín is a man that intrigues me. I don’t understand his place in the narrative because as far as I can tell, he’s a pretty decent guy. He puts a lot of pressure on Diego, is quite hard on him sometimes, and exhibits a fair amount of sexism, but overall he’s an OK dude. For example: he loves Elisa. His friends tell him that he should have just gotten an apartment for her and treated her like a mistress, but Agustín has her living with him. (In fact, in one interview, Mendez described him as a fallen god because of his love for Elisa.)
“What do the kids think?” one of his friends asks.
“They never think anything,” Agustín responds. It’s true, to a degree.
He’s having a party at his house, and Andrea and Diego had said they would come, but either they forgot or had never intended to be there.
“You should talk to them,” the friend says. He’s right.
“I get along with my kids,” the other friend brags. LOL. Who says that?
“Here comes the loser now,” Agustín says, noting Diego’s entrance. OK, so that wasn’t very nice But Agustín is a really hard worker, and Diego is currently rejecting all of that, so I see where he’s coming from. The reason Agustín doesn’t get along with his kids is because he wants them to improve themselves. It’s called parenting. It’s something most of these kids aren’t used to.
Diego greets his father’s friends politely even though he doesn’t want to be there. I’m a huge sucker for people who are polite no matter what, so it’s a general point in his favor. Agustín pulls him aside and scolds him for being late to the party. Diego tells him that he was out at another party, and answers for Andrea’s location that she had stayed. (Diego spares him the other details.) Agustín makes sure that Diego has said hello to Elisa, and then grants Diego’s request to leave. But he doesn’t let him go before criticizing his clothes (apparently a tee-shirt and cargo pants is not appropriate for this gathering) and telling him not to hang out in the kitchen.
Diego runs straight to the kitchen, of course, muttering about how much he hates his father. I realize one doesn’t feel particularly generous towards one’s parents after one has just been criticized by them, but “hate” is a little strong, no? (Honestly, having seen this film all the way through several times, I’m still not sure why Diego feels like he’s in such conflict with his father. Some resentment would be natural, but hate?) Agustín is throwing a party for his new girlfriend, he just wanted his son and daughter to come and say hello and not be dressed like beach bums, and all of the sudden he’s evil?
Well, we find out why Diego has a habit of favoring the kitchen – he seems to be on very good terms with the two servants – Nelly and Inés. They call him Dieguito – it’s “Diego”+”ito”, meaning “Little Diego”. It’s an affectionate diminutive. They say it soothingly as he enters. He stops his rage for a moment to greet them both kindly.
Nelly asks if Andrea is with him, and he tells her no. I’m sure from a storytelling standpoint these first couple of references to her are to establish that she is his sister and this is their home and family, but it’s just the first of many examples of Diego being treated like his sister’s keeper. He might have an untoward interest in her, but he’s held responsible by others for her whereabouts and behavior several times, so maybe he’s not quite as much of a stalker as he occasionally seems.
Diego begins rummaging through the fridge and Nelly tells him to wait for dinner, but Diego complains that he cannot stand the party guests, and she says that she will fix something for him. Just like Diego’s wallflower habits at the club, we again have him very clearly rejecting his peers. And this scene establishes his close relationship with “the help”. I have to laugh, because Nelly ends up giving him what looks like pie instead of dinner. Spoiled boy is spoiled indeed.
While Diego is eating breakfast the next morning, his father asks him where Andrea is.
“¿Soy yo acaso guardián de mi hermana?,” is what he should have said. (“Am I my sister’s keeper?”) I could see myself getting behind some kind of Cain AU – plenty of incest involved there. Eden parallels. It works. Though really, gracias a Dios this doesn’t end with Diego killing Andrea. Bright side! (As I pointed out earlier, that’s downright expected.)
Agustín tells him to go get her. “You know where she is,” Agustín says. “Now!”
What amuses me is that we have no indication that Diego knows where she is. He left her at the club, but that place had to close some time. She could have gone anywhere with anyone. (And I think going home with some guy is actually a step up from screwing him over a toilet in a public restroom. Especially one he had just used.)
Diego walks (it’s not clear quite how far, though we’ll see this location again later), mumbling the whole way about how much his father aggravates him, to another stunning coastal villa. It’s surely no accident how much these houses and landscapes remind one of ancient Greece.
He descends to a deck full of dozens of sleeping youths. (I’m assuming the majority of them passed out, rather .) I don’t know how he knew, but Diego knew exactly where to find Andrea. But given how many people are at this house (probably the majority of her friends), it was a safe guess.
Diego flashes his trademark facial expression. He’s as disgusted by this group display of substance abuse and hedonism as he was by his sister’s behavior the night before. This isn’t just about her – Diego doesn’t identify with these people.
(I have to say, I actually think it looks awesome. Maybe not the drugs and alcohol and wanton promiscuity part – that’s just not my idea of fun. But to be hanging out at a gorgeous place like that – maybe all sitting around some lanterns, looking at the stars, talking, listening to music. And then just falling asleep out on the deck furniture and waking up when the sun starts to get hot. I love sleeping outside. It’s transcendent. The only thing I don’t understand is – why aren’t they afraid of getting sunburned? Because I would be fried to a crisp before noon.)
He wakes up a man named Caregol (an interesting name – I’ve never heard it before) whom he seems to know moderately well (perhaps this is Caregol’s house?) and asks him where Andrea is.Caregol says he hasn’t seen her, but he must mean that he hasn’t seen her this morning (“this morning” being the past 10 seconds), because as Diego will soon discover, Andrea isn’t more than a dozen yards away, in one of the bedrooms inside the house, asleep betwixt her two suitors from the night before. (A bed? Andrea definitely picked one of the best places to pass out.)
And can I just say, this film is full of some really spectacular camera shots – the viewer comes up behind Diego as he enters the room, then twirls to Andrea, and then glides back over to Diego to show us his face. We’re only 10 minutes into the film but we already know exactly how he’ll react to seeing her like this. And the filming of this entire scene puts us in the place of Diego – the revealing of the aftermath of last night’s bacchanalian partying, and his single-minded search for Andrea.
There’s a painting on the wall behind the bed that appears in one of the versions of the poster for the film. It’s a disturbing image. It reminds me of Renaissance paintings of hell and purgatory. (And also of that guy from Prometheus!) Is it orgiastic, or are they suffering? Or both? Is that the point?
As you can see, everyone in this bedroom is still dressed (Andrea is in a bikini – it was visible under her clothes in her scene the might before – she practically always has her swimsuit on, which is almost the very definition of a life of luxury), but it doesn’t trouble Diego any less. It seems to me he would be all too eager to carry out his father’s instructions and bring her back to the house and out of the arms of Suitor 1 and Suitor 2, but Diego has no patience with her in this scene. Is his anger with her? Or is it with his father? Does he merely resent being sent on an errand? Or was he hoping to avoid the vexation of seeing her like this, and is angry that his father has dispatched him to dive right into it?
This scene is, of course, interesting for a number of reasons. But it’s one of the few scenes between Diego and Andrea where Diego’s sexual obsession with her plays second fiddle. After the initial blow of seeing her curled up in bed with two guys – and he takes it like a physical blow – he appears for the most part as no more than a typical annoyed brother.
He picks up her clothes off the floor hurriedly – it’s pretty nice of him to grab her stuff. They’re not poor – I could see him just leaving it all behind out of spite. He calls out her name and shakes her legs, but if she moves it’s only to roll over.
However, this scene involves quite a lot of touching. Andrea’s lack of response drives him to try and pick her up. He slides a hand underneath her leg above her knee, and another under her lower back.
It’s an effective introduction to how out of it she still is even the next morning. (I’m not much better on any given morning, though. Or after a really long nap.) As we’ll see later on, Diego will take advantage of this knowledge.
He’s more annoyed than anything with her in this scene. At least that’s how it seems (though, as I pointed out, it’s possible that most of his frustration in this scene is actually directed at his father). What’s most interesting/puzzling is that there’s absolutely nothing sexualized about the way Diego is touching her, even when he’s got his hand on the underside of her thigh, or when he’s basically got a view right up her skirt. Given what an opportunist he is for such situations further into the film (including later that same day!), it was an interesting choice on Mendez’ part. I don’t think he downplayed the sexuality because the incestuous nature of Diego’s feelings are supposed to still be ambiguous and are being gradually revealed for effect. Even if the first scene is potentially ambiguous (though, in my opinion, jealousy is easily read on his face and through his behavior), the incestuous angle becomes undeniable in the 4th scene (as I have reckoned it), and yet it’s not treated as a dramatic reveal. Whatever Mendez’ reasoning, I like being able to point at this scene and how it is different, showing a different way that Diego can treat Andrea. He’s not all about groping and ogling.
In a short video about the making of the film, Mendez talks about how he tried to bring to the forefront a primary meaning in each scene. So it’s possible that the focus of this scene was to be on Andrea’s lifestyle and not Diego’s desire, but given the fact that Diego’s interest in Andrea had already been introduced, it doesn’t seem like an overload to treat both concepts at the same time.
It’s hard to tell exactly how they had been hooked together while walking, but she definitely had her arms around him to some degree. Andrea seems to be awake now. I guess the walk did her good. She even has a slight appetite (she’ll be drinking orange juice at breakfast). She might have needed Diego’s help walking at first while she woke up, but based on the energy she’ll exert in just a few minutes, she no longer needed his help to walk by the time they got to the house, which means she was hanging on his arm just for the heck of it.
Diego has been carrying her purse. A good-humored and kind gesture. So whatever happened while they walked back to the house (and, again, it’s unclear how far the distance or how long it took to walk it), he seems much better disposed towards her now. Clearly the time spent with Andrea walking back to the house put him into a much better mood.
Agustín feebly chides Andrea for missing the party the night before. “We said we would spend the evening together,” he reminds her.
Andrea deals with all of this with a tempered impatience. Her bitchiness is more in her words than her demeanor – the broken promise, the total disregard and disrespect towards her father and Elisa. Which only gets worse when Agustín says, “You remember Elisa?” and Andrea responds, “The new maid?”
And this is particularly hurtful for Elisa, who, as we know, comes from the social stratum of maids. I’m not sure if Andrea coincidentally picks an insult that packs extra punch, or whether she can tell from Elisa’s accent, or perhaps her darker skin, that she’s not from a wealthy, upper class family. (We’ll see Elisa practicing speaking like the other women, and we’ll meet her grandmother later, who is of Native American descent.) Andrea’s insult is definitely classist, but it’s possibly racist as well.
Andrea laughs, and mockingly says, “Hello, how are you? It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Not to his credit, Diego laughs as well. I really can’t abide them being rude to Elisa under any circumstances, but I do want to point out that I think the tension here for Andrea and Diego towards Elisa is far more about their father’s new gold-digging/social-climbing girlfriend who’s half his age, rather than any awareness/significance on their part towards her perceived social inferiority. And what they really care about here is their father. It’s not about Elisa. They “hate” their father, so they’re not going to cooperate with him as he tries to introduce his girlfriend into the family.
Diego keeps looking at Andrea, so I wonder if what matters to him above all is that she sees him laughing at her joke. Whether he wants her to think that he thinks she’s funny and they share a sense of humor, or whether it’s a show of solidarity against their father. Perhaps he just enjoys seeing Andrea be rude to their father, since he doesn’t seem to be capable of it himself. Agustín tells her that she has been going out every night, and that it’s Sunday and maybe she should take a break. “Like God,” Andrea jokes, once again garnering Diego’s laughter. (Her remark possibly relates to the title.)
Agustín announces that Ramón, the family’s driver, will bring Diego to Agustín’s office at 8AM Monday morning.
The dynamic between the three of them is interesting. Agustín cowers a bit in front of Andrea. What he says to her is a suggestion. He seems uncomfortable even suggesting that she ought to take a day of rest. When he has something unpleasant to be said to her or done, he sends Diego to do it or say it, the way he sent Diego to retrieve her that morning. He shoots an embarrassed but powerless look at Elisa when Andrea jokes about taking Sunday off like God, and even the “maid” dig only gets her name said lightly in reproach. Diego, likewise, lets Andrea have the upper hand. But Agustín says whatever he feels like to Diego, and Diego agrees helplessly to whatever his father says, unlike Andrea, who’ll make a joke and then do whatever she wants.
Andrea sympathizes with Diego – apparently having to be somewhere at 8 in the morning is one of the worst things she can think of. But then she makes fun of him for so weakly acquiescing, repeating his “Sí, Papá” in a mocking tone. (Andrea doesn’t understand Agustín and Diego’s relationship. While she would never have so meekly agreed to Agustín’s demands, Agustín makes no such demands of her, and does not punish her for her disrespect and disobedience.) Diego’s not sure what he might have done differently, but he takes her teasing in good spirits and they end up throwing food all over each other.
I hate waste more than I hate almost anything, but I really like this scene because Andrea and Diego are having so much fun with each other. And it’s a very innocent and pure sort of fun (even if what they’re doing just demonstrates how obliviously privileged they are). This scene is one of the only times we see Diego genuinely laugh, and whatever smiles of Andrea’s that aren’t pharmaceutical in origin are actually horrifying. (Such as when she has a good laugh about the fact that she doesn’t know who the father of her baby is.)
We’ve already seen that they get along well enough (the exchange between them in the bathroom at the club demonstrated that they were on civil terms at the very least), but this scene shows that they can actually have fun together and enjoy each other’s company.
Then they pour a bunch of foods into one glass, and Andrea says, “Last one in the pool has to drink it.” They leap up. Andrea has a head start because of where she was sitting, but Diego shoves her aside and gets ahead of her. “Naked!” she adds, as it becomes clear that he’s going to make it to the pool before her. She technically says “Sin ropa” in Spanish, which means “without clothes”.
I’d say she adds the condition to give herself more time to catch up, but she has already given up. She stops running and stylishly strolls out there (I swear the shoes she’s wearing now are not the same ones Diego picked up off the floor at Caregol’s), playfully calling him a jerk with a smile on her face, and then she drops down into a chaise lounge while he splashes around in the water.
Diego shows them off when he swims up to the edge of the pool and folds his arms over the side. He reminds his sister that she has to drink their concoction, but she seems to have fallen into a daze. She leans back in the lounge and seemingly goes to sleep.
He offers to bring it to her, and then repeats her name several times and she ignores him. The focus in on her, Diego’s voice wafting over from offscreen.
This part baffled me at first – the way she just sits down and goes to sleep. But as I read some analyses (they were in Spanish, so it was hard work for me) and pondered it a little more, I came to the conclusion that this is a demonstration of the fatigue of la clase alta limeña. She’s tired because she’s lazy, she’s tired because she’s bored with life, she’s tired because there is little of meaning in her life, she’s tired because she has nothing to work for, nothing to be awake for. She’s tired because her life is a series of trivialities. She’s tired because she can be. And everyone else is the same, as we saw at Caregol’s earlier. Diego is in some ways an exception (he was bright and early this morning, munching on Cheerios, eating them with his fingers like the freak/little boy that he is), but we’ll see him sleeping during the drive to Lima Monday morning. (Of course, since he has to be at the office at 8, we know he’s probably tired for good reason!)
His voice offscreen is a representation of the distance between them as she falls away from their interaction. All of the ways in which she is broken are keeping her from maintaining that real, positive moment they were sharing. Perhaps Diego’s obsession is a complementary reaction to her perpetual emotional and presence withdrawal. As we’ll see, the more she is forced to feel, the more she’ll pull away.
As the scene ends, it becomes clear that Andrea is NOT going to drink her iron gut challenge. Another broken promise. When will the lies and the broken promises stop, Andrea?
(You can watch this scene in decent quality with English subtitles here.)
The next scene is an indeterminate number of minutes later. Andrea has risen, cleaned the food off of her stomach, and gone to her bedroom. She’s making a series of phone calls to her friends, looking for someone to go to the beach with her. (She is re-energized, and is even jumping around on her bed. She is reinvigorated by the idea of getting out of the house again.) They’re all either asleep/hungover, or adhering to the Sunday-is-a-day-of-rest guideline. Diego, still shirtless and wet-haired from his stint in the pool, jumps onto the bed next to her.
Unlike the two earlier scenes from this day, there’s a lot of sexualization to their physical interaction in this scene. Not only does it take place on her bed and Diego is without a shirt (she’s hardly dressed herself, though that’s fairly common for her), but the way he reacts to her body and where his eyes wander make it clear that his attraction for her is being highlighted.
And while I wouldn’t say there’s anything specifically suggestive in Andrea’s behavior or about their general situation (most of the “suggestive situations” I’m referring to are supernatural, but an example that’s not would be Oliver/Thea from Arrow, because he wasn’t around while she aged from 12 to 17, or Chris and Cathy from Flowers in the Attic, because they were locked up together for years, as well as forced to act as surrogate parents to their younger siblings), the combination of several factors – her often being dressed in a bikini, her calling for him to take off his clothes (indicative of a comfort in being nearly naked with each other), him regularly being confronted with her sexual activities, and them both being on her bed like this (in this way – as you shall soon see – and not just sitting or lying back watching a film) being a regular thing (judging by her reaction), etc. have certainly created a sexualized climate for their relationship. (Their limited social circle and perceived superiority are, naturally, also factors – I’ll address those at the end of the post.) There’s a scene where they sort of dance together later on that also supports the idea that Andrea has a slightly skewed perception of what appropriate sisterly behavior is. Which isn’t to say AT ALL that she’s in any way responsible for his sexual attraction to her, only that his sexual attraction for her and its thriving are more understandable given the circumstances.
For a nearly-unbelievable number of seconds after hopping onto the bed he just stares at her chest. One really wonders why Andrea hasn’t noticed (on this, or any other occasion), but she’s not a particularly observant person – she’s far too self-involved.
He leans down, lying next to her, but propped up and facing her. She ignores him, but if his presence had been bothering her then she would be reacting differently. Her body language is passively accepting, even harmonious, if you will. (Which you probably won’t.)
“Why do you have to go out?” Diego asks (my own translation from the Spanish). Oh, Diego. But that’s the question, isn’t it? Why does Andrea have to go out? But she does. She has to get out of the house. She can’t hack it there. She can’t hack sobriety. Too much time to think. He fingers the pillow a little nervously while he asks her, which is ADORABLE.
“We could watch a movie, or something,” is Diego’s follow-up suggestion. He suggests it very casually. The text of the subtitle and as I write it here makes it sound much more pathetic than it is. While he can’t hide the fact that’s angling for her company, his tone manages to hide his desperation.
But Andrea just makes another phone call.
Andrea sits back up, and Diego follows, falling back into that staring habit of his. When Andrea is in the room, she’s pretty much the only thing he’s looking at. He did the same thing at breakfast. It’s really sweet creepy intense.
So he starts making sweet love to her foot. What a freak. He just sort of touches it, kind of massaging it but kind of not (which is to say, I wouldn’t call it a foot massage), and staring at it and her butt and the back of her head. Basically being the starer that he is. (It’s also, partially, that he’s waiting for a reaction from her. It never comes.) You can see when she first sticks her legs out that he can hardly believe his good luck and is sort of nervously optimistic. He keeps checking to see if she wants him to stop, but she continues to be, at the very least, tolerant of his touching.
On the phone to her friend Truja (I never do figure out which girl is Truja), Andrea says, “I’m hung over too, but it’s hell here.” She’s got some funny ideas about hell. But this underlines her eagerness to get out of the house. Of course it’s rather insulting to Diego, who is not only generally grouped in with the concept of “here”, but had literally not 20 seconds ago suggested that she stay in and they watch a movie.
Andrea rolls slowly onto her back, frustrated with yet another dead end. (You can tell that the subtitles are British because she laments that her friends are a “bunch of wankers”. LOL.) Because Diego has a hold of her foot she has to twist her legs as she rolls over, but she makes no effort to pull her foot out of his grasp.
Diego approves of this change in position. You can actually see his eyes widen as her skirt falls revelatorily (totally a word). It would be a whole lot funnier if we didn’t know what he was going to do to her later on. He gets in as much creepy staring as he can before the very restless Andrea moves yet again.
She’s now lying on her stomach facing a different part of the room. Diego does not have to let go of her foot in order to accommodate her new position, but he repositions himself so that he’s lying with the underside of her calf near his head.
And then he just begins caressing it. His precious. He loves every part of her. He loves that foot and he loves that leg. He’s seriously stroking her leg. (When he’s not checking out her a$$, or again looking at her head to see if she has any reaction at all whatsoever. Which she doesn’t.)
Andrea calls Caregol. I get the impression that she’s reaching the bottom of the barrel. “Can you come get me out of here?” she asks. “Here” is apparently so bad that she’s willing to spend the day with Caregol. I really don’t get it. I mean, she likes Diego. The house is big enough that she doesn’t even have to see him, or Elisa or her father if she doesn’t want to. It’s obvious that the thing she really needs to get away from is herself.
But Andrea has a taker! Caregol is willing to come get her.
Diego expands his territory to her other leg, and then takes a real chance and kisses the underside of her knee. He’s about to kiss her there again when she finishes her phone call. “What the hell are you doing?” she asks, but not in a way that indicates she really cares or plans to listen to his answer, should he give her one. She bends her leg back to hit him in the head while she says this, which is hilarious. It’s very sibling-like.
Although Andrea stops him and shakes him off of her, she did it when she was done on the phone and had to get up to get ready. If they were watching a movie or something and she had no reason to move, I’m not sure that she wouldn’t have just let him keep doing whatever the hell he was doing. Especially if he had never kissed her (surprising + wet is a bad combination), and had just kept to the massaging and caressing.
As we’ve seen him do a lot in this scene, he fidgets with the pillow, treating it as an outlet for his nervous excitement and pulling it against his body like he can’t do with her.
So we actually can’t be sure, but it’s heavily implied that she’s changing her clothes and catches him watching her while she does it. So he’s definitely looking at something he wants to see.
In a way, we can see this as sort of ominous (particularly on repeat viewings). What he does further on retroactively darkens this moment. Later, when he takes some liberties towards seeing her “sin ropa”, we’ll have to remember this part, when she was about to change her clothes and noticed him looking and objected to it.
But, there’s also an entirely different way to interpret this scene. The thing about Andrea is that it’s sort of hard to tell the spirit in which her meanness is intended. Her tone, even when she’s in a perfectly good mood, makes her sound annoyed and impatient and/or condescending. She swears like a sailor. Basically, she’s rude all of the time. (Just look at the way she treated Diego in this scene.) I don’t think her rudeness is supposed to be charming, but it is also up to those around her (and us) to realize that that’s just how she is. So when she says, “What are you looking at?” like an accusation, it could just be her way of indicating to him that she’s about to change her clothes. You know, like in a teasing way. My friends and I do that. I really don’t think this is a stretch, I’m putting this forth as a totally feasible interpretation of her line.
Especially because the rest of scene plays out in a lighthearted way. After obediently putting his head down so that he would not be able to see her changing her clothes, he looks back up at her. Andrea walks over to him and shoves his head back (definitely playfully), and he exaggerates the push and falls back into the pillows. So it ends with a very playful exchange. Furthermore, I’m reasonably certain that Diego looks back up at her like he’s pretending to be pretending to want to watch her change her clothes. (Did you follow that?) He looks super creepy while he’s watching her (what’s new?), but the very creepiest he looks during that part is while her approaching shadow is cast over his face, which means he couldn’t help but see that she was walking straight towards him. So I’m fairly certain he was being playful.
Ramón drives a sleeping Diego to the oficina the next morning at the crack of dawn (aka sometime before 8 AM). Judging by the barren wasteland they pass through, it’s a drive of some considerable length.
One of the most effective scenes in the film has a very uncomfortable Diego traveling up the elevator at his father’s office building with a cleaning woman. She stops cleaning while he’s in there, and they both just kind of stand there, wishing they were alone. Diego almost says something, but then does not. It’s obvious that the situation makes him feel very uncomfortable. Even when they’re standing in the same place, they’re a million miles apart. It’s a very powerful image of the class divide.
(My elevator rides are like that too, but that’s just because I’m socially awkward in general.)
Back at the house, Elisa is boredly chatting up Nelly, the maid. She asks what Nelly does after she finishes work, and Nelly says that sometimes she stays in, and sometimes she goes out. (Nelly’s great with the details.) “Agustín lets you go out?” Elisa asks.
I would have thought, all things considered, that live-in service was a pretty good gig. But apparently not. They sound like slaves. Nelly responds that Agustín is very good and lets them go out. And then Elisa says, “Now it will be me who decides.”
The brilliance of Elisa’s character is that it’s easy to feel sorry for her (like in this scene, when she’s lonely, or in the breakfast scene with Andrea) and to empathize with her motivations, but she’s really quite unlikable. I mean, who says that?
Elisa is reflective a couple of times in the film, but the moments are few and far between.
Back at the office, Agustín is very kindly inquiring about the preparations Diego has made for his next year of university, and Diego is looking like this is the Spanish inquisition. It’s a leather couch, Diego, not the rack.
He tells him that he would be great in administration, that all of the doors are open for him at the company. (I wish somebody would just give me a job like that.)
Augstin wants him to tour the factory. He tells him to get a tie, to be “elegant” – that some of those people will be working for him some day. “Don’t forget who you are,” he says. Agustín is explicitly reinforcing the idea in Diego’s mind that he’s better than everyone else. That their family is better.
Diego actually smiles a little bit during this scene, even though he’s still cowering the way he always does around his father, even when his father is being super nice. He receives the compliments with cautious pleasure.
So then Augustin asks him if he has decided on which car he wants. Oh, man. Spoiled boy is spoiled.
Agustín thinks that type of car is a toy (having now seen it, I can see why he says that), and that he should get something serious. (I hope he didn’t give his children real cars for toys when they were kids.) Agustín wants Diego to get a Ford F-150:
If a car isn’t a convertible then what’s the point?
This really shows the way that Agustín pushes things onto Diego. He gives Diego the illusion of a free choice, of caring about his choice, and then presents his own option as the right one. However, he gives in and lets Diego have the Suzuki rather easily, but not without another muttered comment about it being a toy, and not without saying, “At least, stop moping around, you look like a damn idiot, always slouching.”
He does slouch, though.
We all do. We’re a generation of slouchers. It’s a real shame. But who wants to sit up straight? It’s awful. Plus I always feel like I’m sticking my chest in everyone’s face. Hey, look at my boobs!
Andrea is embarrassed about having gained some weight (spoiler: IT’S A BABY!), and makes up some lie about having eaten a big breakfast. I’m impressed that she does any work at all. The shoot wasn’t terribly impressive, but definitely professional.
The second reference to the title of the film comes during one of Elisa’s afternoons with the other women in her new world. They’re discussing the Bible. One of the women posits that guilt should not exist: because everything happens for a reason, there’s no such thing as chance, and every cause produces an effect. (I would argue almost the exact opposite – the only thing that truly matters is the guilt.)
“We’re all potential gods,” chimes in another woman. (Hey! That’s the name of the show!) It’s understandable that these wealthy few, these one-percenters as we’ve started calling them here in the States (Peru is ranked #34 in income inequality, the US is not far behind, in 43rd place – both very bad), would espouse a philosophy that absolves them of fault and guilt, and that they would feel like gods because of how they feel like they lord over everyone else, not to mention the actual power they wield with their wealth and sociopolitical prominence. (Mendez says that they “do and undo the country”.) That they would feel like they are the ones in power for a reason and that it is meant to be that way.
The inclusion of the Bible is interesting. Even though Elisa is not a particularly sympathetic character in the end, she’s on the outside like us, and so we share her POV to a certain degree. She does not pay much attention to the Bible discussion (in many of her scenes with these women we see her simply agreeing with whatever they say), and while studying up to try and belong, she finds reading the Bible very tiresome. Like the endless decadent parties and the trivial knowledge of Greek mythology and flowers, it might fit that we’re supposed to see this as meaningless. But I think it’s actually the case that we’re supposed to see them as misunderstanding it, as going about it in the wrong way. As being hypocritical, even. The film undermines the women’s interpretation by having their discussion going on in the background while one of the women grows annoyed with a maid who doesn’t know what soy sauce is/can’t find it.
Elisa reads aloud the section that the women had been discussing while studying the Bible on her own: “There was a woman, a sinner, who…” It’s Luke, chapter 7. A woman who is considered to be a sinner comes to Jesus and washes his feet with her hair and her tears. The Pharisees criticize him for letting such a sinner touch him, but Jesus forgives her sins in front of all of them, and tells the Pharisees that she will love God all the more for having been forgiven so much wrongdoing. It’s interesting that it’s a passage about forgiveness. And it’s interesting that it’s a passage about a woman who is a sinner. In the next scene we’ll learn that Andrea is pregnant. When she discusses the matter with her friends and her father, the concern seems to be the scandal. This society does not practice the forgiveness of sinners. The meaning of the passage in the Bible that they studied escapes them completely. And at the same time these people seem to believe themselves above morality, like gods.
The doctor tells her that she needs to be sure about an abortion. (He’s a nice guy. Very concerned about how it might traumatize her. Though perhaps a bit opinionated, if you ask me.) Andrea does not seem to be sure. But one of her first questions is if she can pay with a credit card, so she’s maintaining her typical emotional distance. The doctor says that most women who get abortions do so because they have been raped or because they do not have money. After this, Andrea says that she might be as much as 8 weeks along, which the doctor says is too late. He describes the operation as being much more intense after 6 weeks, the child as being nearly formed. This frightens Andrea a little. I think she was probably much more set on an abortion before this discussion with the doctor.
There’s a very startling cut from Andrea’s maybe-I-don’t-want-an-abortion face to Diego staring intensely at what could only be her. Part of the jarring transition is the sound, which goes from the silence of the doctor’s office to the obnoxious sound effects of a video game. The harshness and the violence of the game sounds definitely reflect Diego’s inner strife.
Elisa often appears to us first in full body shots, or the camera sweeps along and then encounters her. It’s the opposite with Diego, who appears dramatically in sudden close-ups, like in this scene. It’s the perfect contrast between the two characters: Elisa feels too little, and Diego feels too much. His emotional intensity vs. her cool distance.
We see Andrea as if we’re spying on her. The camera is still, square, objective. We’re looking in on her world. The filmmaking style is formal, distant, objective – which suits the theme of the film, but at the same time contrasts wonderfully with the emotional moments.
Diego is making a face we’ve seen before – the very first time we saw him at the club – only this time he’s in profile! And he’s less disgusted now, just jealous. Jealousy in its purest and strongest form.
We shoot over to see the object of his eye: Andrea (no surprise), in the middle of a circle of a guys out on the deck of Casa Agustín. Andrea says something about a “good boning” and then says they need some XTC (ecstasy), which is apparently her drug of choice. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Andrea.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this little snippet of conversation is meant to underscore the vapidity of their concerns, the triviality of their topics of conversation.
Diego is “inside” (it’s all very open), sitting behind a pair of guys who are playing a video game. Diego’s two companions – I’m going to call them Shell-Shirt (I realize that’s not actually a shell, but that’s what it reminds me of) and Ginger – have an exchange of words for which Diego does not even turn his head for a second. His eyes are completely locked on Andrea. I’m not exaggerating here, I think the whole point of this first part of the scene is that Diego literally cannot take his eyes off of her. That it’s utterly ridiculous. I’m amazed Shell-Shirt and Ginger haven’t noticed, even considering the fact that Diego is sitting behind them.
And he’s slouching. Stop slouching, Dieguito!
This might be a good time to point out that Casa Augustin has some seriously weird art. A lot of the human form, but, like, in a weird way. Maybe Elisa should take her “Now it will be me who decides” and apply it the décor. Let’s just say that if I had their kind of money, that is not what would be up on my walls.
The art is a little divergent, but I’m sure you’ve noticed that the house itself is furnished expensively but simply, in white. Mendez describes it as ascetic. It’s sterile. Cold. Lifeless. The beach villa and the Lima house (which we’ll see later), as well as Caregol’s house, all share this quality. They just don’t look home-y, or lived-in. They’re beautiful, but artificial. It’s an intentional telegraphing of the fact that there is something wrong here. The splash of color in Andrea’s possessions (you recall her purple bedspread and Diego’s beloved green pillows?) is ironic, as she seems to be the most dead inside.
Returning to the current scene: Shell-Shirt, who it turns out is kind of a major a$$hole, turns to Diego and says, “Let’s mess around with the maid.” I wish I could understand what he was saying in Spanish, so I knew whether the suggestion had a sexual connotation or not. Diego frowns at him in confusion. “She has a great ass,” Shell-Shirt elaborates. Diego is disgusted. “It’s nice to grab,” Shell-Shirt adds. Wow, what a charmer.
Diego calls him a loser, which is better than what he deserves to be called.
Shell-Shirt is unperturbed. But Diego is distracted away by a guy on the balcony calling his name and asking for ice. (I’m not sure about the Spanish, but the English makes it seem like he’s asking politely enough.) Diego looks over. It’s Suitor 1! He has Andrea reclined against his chest. I guess that’s why he couldn’t get up to get his own ice. It’s interesting that he knows Diego’s name. I guess he’s not as much of a stranger as he seemed that night at the club? “What?” Diego asks. “Some ice,” Suitor 2 informs him. It’s a reunion!
Caregol is visible off to the side there. (As well as two of Andrea’s best lady friends, whom I will refer to in the future as Floral Suit and Pink Suit.)
“Screw you! Get it yourself,” Diego replies.
Diego! That’s rude. (Though I can certainly understand him resenting being sent for ice by these guys in particular.) It’s your house, Diego.
Suitor 1 seems slightly miffed. I like him more than Suitor 2. (But Suitor 2 has a really nice voice.)
Andrea takes over: “Come on, sweetie, go get us some ice. Thanks.” And she air kisses him. I can’t tell if her manner is mocking or if this is her being nice. Welcome to the enigma that is Andrea. (The Suitors seem to be laughing at her intervention.) I can’t figure out what word is being translated as “sweetie” only that it ends it “ito”, the same endearing diminutive that I mentioned earlier. We’re going to have to trust the translation and assume it has as many of the correct connotations as possible.
Diego is embarrassed by the way Andrea is treating him. It’s probably a combination of her slightly mocking tone in front of her Suitors, the fact that she overruled his “Get it yourself”, and the fact that he finds himself unable to turn her down. There’s definitely an echo of resentful obedience on his face.
But Shell-Shirt has come to the rescue. It’s the perfect excuse for him to go where the maid is, so he volunteers to go get the ice.
The silly part is that Shell-Shirt just asks the maid for the ice once he gets in the kitchen. So what Casa Agustín really needs is like a bell or a buzzer.
Shell-Shirt greets Inés by her name, so he seems to know her relatively well. In Elisa’s conversation earlier with Nelly, we learned that Nelly knows who lives in each house. There’s clearly a distinct set of people here in this coastal community, with a distinct set of behaviors.
Shell-Shirt says he wants to take Inés out, and she laughs at him. She’s so sweet. Then he slaps her butt, and she chastises him, quite fiercely. He isn’t daunted, and grabs her butt, to which Inés responds even more sharply.
Diego arrives, thankfully interrupting the moment. He can easily tell that something inappropriate went down. Shell-Shirt departs quickly with the ice. He pats Diego on the stomach as he leaves, a gesture clearly designed to relieve the tension of the moment by reminding him of their friendship. It also indicates something we couldn’t have been sure of until right now – that Diego and Shell-Shirt are friends, and not just two people who were sitting next to each other at a get-together. [It raises some questions about the get-together. Are Diego’s friends grouped in with Andrea’s friends? Did they all just come over in one mass? Or did Diego invite people over once he figured out that Andrea was having her friends over? (That doesn’t seem too likely.) Does Andrea have people over often during the week when her father is at the Lima house? Or is this to get her mind off of the baby?]
“Ines, did he bother you?” Diego asks. She goes about her business, trying to ignore him. She clearly wants him to drop the subject. He repeats the question, growing frustrated with her feigned ignorance, but in a sort of affectionate/understanding way. Then she outright denies that anything untoward happened. But Diego doesn’t believe her. “If they bother you, say something,” he insists. She’s silent. “Or do you like it?” he challenges, knowing she’ll feel obligated to respond to the accusation with the truth to defend herself.
“No,” she replies.
“Well then, why don’t you say anything? Speak. Say something!”
“No, Ines. No. If you don’t speak up, everyone will think it’s all fine.”
“Yes, Dieguito,” he repeats, frustrated. “Fuck,” he mutters, leaving.
This is such a great scene. It’s just so complicated. Shell-Shirt has grown up believing that he has the right to behave this way. He’s not going to get much more than a slap on the hand, if anything, for harassing a servant. And Diego has seen this kind of behavior and he hates it, but he doesn’t have the power to do anything about it unless Inés and others like her speak up. He’s sensitive enough about the situation to realize that such an infraction is treated like nothing unless someone makes a big deal about it. He’s observant and compassionate, but he’s still ignorant of the full delicacy of the situation. He can’t truly grasp the position that Inés is in.
She’s most likely supporting her family – she can’t afford to lose this job. She can’t take the chance that Shell-Shirt or his family will get her fired or hurt her in other ways (frame her for stealing, etc.) if she speaks up. She can’t take the chance that her employer (ultimately Agustín and not Diego) will side with Shell-Shirt and his family against her. Whether they are a$$holes and think she’s making it up, or whether they just want it all swept under the rug. It’s just so much easier and safer for her to put up with it, even though we all know that it’s disgusting and she shouldn’t have to. And it probably hurts that even if Shell-Shirt was interested in more than just grabbing her a$$, if he really liked her, that he would most likely consider her off limits because of her social station. He would never date her. He wouldn’t marry her. (Which is why we see Elisa taking such pains to hide her origins.)
After spending some time with Elisa and Agustín (who are in Lima for the weekdays, probably because Agustín works there), we return to Casa Agustín where the partygoers have all expired. In a distinct parallel to Diego retrieving his sister on Sunday morning, we see everyone passed out on couches and deck chairs. They’ve partied hard, but they also all share the fatigue I described earlier with reference to Andrea. But I don’t blame them – sleepovers are fun! They’re all asleep. Shell-Shirt and Ginger. Caregol. Floral Suit and Suitor 2 (getting’ cozy!).
Everyone except for Diego.
I don’t know if he tried to stay awake on purpose while everyone else went to sleep, or if he’s just the only one who is sober and hasn’t passed out. Or both. Some of them, like Caregol, are positioned so uncomfortably I really doubt they decided to sleep there. And given what Diego is about to do, I think he’s probably banking on the fact that everyone is dead to the world.
It’s a rare occasion: the camera finds Diego rather than cutting straight to a close-up of his face, and we have a full-body shot of him as well as Andrea. We pass through the living room, panning over all of the unconscious youth, and then head out to the deck, where Andrea and Diego are revealed. They are sharing a padded bench. (It’s a confusing piece of furniture because it’s apparently for sitting, but it’s very wide and has no back.)
Andrea is laying back on it, with her feet on the ground. We don’t know if Diego was next to her when she passed out. If he was, it’s interesting (to me, at least) that they spent the most latter part of the evening together even though they both had friends there. They’re not secluded out on the deck – we can see at least one other person in the vicinity, but of Andrea’s primary gentlemen friends, Caregol and Suitor 2 are inside the house, and possibly Suitor 1 as well. It’s very possible that Diego was somewhere else in the house, and just wandered over to Andrea once everyone was unconscious. But that just wasn’t my impression. There’s something so still about the whole scene that the idea that he had ever moved that much is sort of hard to imagine. Do you know what I’m saying? Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Diego is reclined on the padded bench thing next to her, but on his side, facing her. Her arms are laid across her stomach and Diego is kissing her wrist. I know what a violation even that small touch is, but there’s something sort of sweet about the fact that he’s kissing her wrist. It’s just like the foot and the leg thing – he’s a full body worshipper. Equal opportunity body part toucher.
When he’s certain that she’s still asleep, he rolls back over and makes quick business of her buttons. Fortunately for him, Andrea’s bra (swimsuit?) hooks in front, so he is able to undo that as well. He’s shaking the whole time – in anticipation or fear.
And then he, to put it politely, gets his rocks off right there beside her. I won’t be documenting it visually for you, sorry. I want to be able to say that I have never made a GIF of someone masturbating.
Hell of a risk he’s taking. There’s not only the chance that she’ll wake up, but his house is full of guests and there’s Nelly and Ines!
That, or he smells a skunk.
He’s either crying or he’s on the verge of it.
He then makes a series of extremely unfortunately faces: he slides his hands down his face angstily, hits himself in the head angrily, pulls on his hair dramatically, another hand slide (sadder this time), followed by some very strange cheek-pulling (I’m pretty sure I’ve never done that), before he finally sits down on a bench in the sand. Bottom line: torment and inner-turmoil and manpain.
He definitely feels a little out of control. I think he hates what he just did, but I get the impression that he hates even more the fact that he couldn’t stop himself from doing it. I recognize it – it’s exactly how I feel when I realize I’ve eaten an entire box of Girl Scout cookies.
I don’t think Diego really noticed it until he sat down, but there’s a game of volleyball happening on the beach right in front of him. (I’m skeptical that it would be bright enough for night volleyball, but I guess it’s all set up with lights and everything.) I can’t be 100% sure, but it’s my impression that some of the women who work in the houses along that stretch of coast all come down to the beach after they get off work (assuming they’re “allowed” to go out) and play together. It really makes me wonder how late at night it is, and why Diego wasn’t more concerned about one of the maids catching him with Andrea.
Nelly jogs over and sits down on the bench next to Diego, calling him, “Dieguito.”. She puts a hand on his shoulder and a hand on his leg, which goes pretty far in showing how close they are, how comfortable they are around each other, how much she cares for him. “What’s wrong?” she asks. “Your friends?”
Diego looks like he doesn’t want to talk about it. No kidding.
The English subtitles have his response as “I don’t care” (which is extremely ambiguous and sort of awkward because it’s not a proper answer to the question that was asked), but I hear in the Spanish that he repeats “my friends” in his answer, so I think the meaning of what he’s saying is either, “Yes, I’m bothered by something that has to do with my friends but I really don’t care that much it’s not a big deal,” or “No, what’s wrong doesn’t have to do with them, I don’t even care about them. They don’t matter to me.”
Of course we know exactly what the problem is.
Awwww. Maid sandwich of comforting.
“Andrea stayed at the house?” Nelly asks. She’s back to smiling (she must really love volleyball); she’s either trying very hard to cheer him up or feels reassured that he’s fine. I feel like this question could imply any number of things, for example: 1) Nelly is used to seeing Andrea and Diego together, so much so that their separation prompts a remark about it, and/or 2) Nelly suspects that Diego would be in better spirits if Andrea were present, and/or 3) Nelly suspects that Diego being upset might have something to do with Andrea and is prompting him to elaborate.
Diego grimaces a little at the mention of Andrea (if it was possible for him to grimace any more), and then replies, “Yes,” very awkwardly, and sort of embarrassedly but not in an obvious way.
“Why are you sad?” Inés asks.
Diego argues that they already have teams, but no one cares and he takes up a spot next to Inés. I bet she regrets asking him to play, because it seems to me he turns into a bit of a ball hog, hitting it every time it comes over into the corner they share. It even seems like he’s about to steal her serve, but then he passes it to her. I’m not kidding, but it’s all meant to be in good fun, I’m pretty sure. Everyone’s laughing, even sad Dieguito.
End Part I.