ARRANCAME LA VIDA (TEAR THIS HEART OUT)
Mexico/Spain, 2008, 107 minutes, Colour.
Ana Claudia Talacon.
Directed by Roberto Sneider.
Based on a popular Mexican novel, and with a song that is sung towards the end of the film when the lyrics clearly indicate the life of the central character, this nationalist and feminist drama was one of the five final contenders for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, 2008.
It is quite a lavish production, considered one of Mexico's most expensive. It recreates life in that country in the 1930s and 40s with attention to design, costumes, sets and a sense of period, also with the music and songs.
At the centre is a very strong young woman, Catalina. As played by Ana Claudia Talencon (the star of The Crime of Fr Amaro), she has to age from 15 to 30, an uneducated but shrewd girl who is seduced by a violent and ruthless general from the Revolution but who is a match for him at every step of their marriage and his career as politician, governor of the state of Puebla and minister in Mexico City. She has a lot to learn when she accompanies the general to the ocean and then has to learn about sexuality, when she agrees to his brusque command to marry him, when she is pregnant and discovers his infidelities, when he makes her a minister for health care and she takes it seriously and listens to complaints about him. She decides at times to leave but does not. She knows she can do better things for people, but she doesn't. She falls in love with an orchestra conductor but, of course, it is ill-fated.
Nevertheless, as the film ends and she still has much of her life before her, all kinds of possibilities and freedom open up. She has triumphed in self-assertion in a macho culture.
The film plays like a lower-key saga because most of the violence in politicking and destruction of enemies takes place off screen because the story is that of Catalina. He cruel husband is the supporting character.
While the action takes place rather rapidly and the film is not overlong, we still get a sense of the crises that Mexico went through during this period as well as experience of a woman who is something of a Scarlet O'Hara survivor of her day.
1.Mexican history, a Mexican saga?
2.The production values, sets, period, the 30s and 40s, the cities, the countryside, wealth and poverty, politics, the arts? The musical score, classics and local music?
3.The title, the song at the end, the lyrics, explaining Catalina’s life?
4.Catalina’s story: the actress ageing from fifteen to thirty, credible? An ordinary Mexican young girl, her voice-over describing her infatuation with Andres, in the arcades? Love for him, her age, relationship with her parents, their keeping quiet, Andres being seductive? Ignoring the rumours about him, having him to a meal with her family? Going to the sea, the exhilaration at the beach, the sexual encounter, his reactions, her wanting to have feelings? Going to the fortune teller, the sex education? His not proposing, arriving, demanding to marry her? The marriage ceremony? Her not being educated, but shrewd? The wedding breakfast, demanding the orange juice, her father supporting her? Going home with Andres, life, the social whirl, wealth, her pregnancy, his arrest and the tension, his release? Her relationship with the young boy? Time passing, the children, the elections and campaigns, with Andres, his wanting to become governor? His bringing the other children, his sad story about their saintly mother, the lies? Accepting this? His naming her a minister after his election? Her meetings, encountering people, the social concern, the orphanages, the insane women? Complaints about Andres’ treatment of people? Her still campaigning, but his ignoring her? The arrival of the older daughter? Her seeing his mistress in the streets? Demanding to leave, yet not leaving? Going to Mexico City, her not doing the right thing? Andres and his being a minister? The woman complaining about her missing husband and his being discovered murdered? The music, Carlos, the appreciation, his talking with Andres and herself at the table, going to the rehearsals, falling in love, the sexual encounter, not reporting information to Andres? The concert, the murder of Carlos, the images of the marigolds? Going to the fortune teller, getting the poison, the daughter’s wedding day and the forced marriage? Giving Andres the tea, his dying later? The important declaration of her sense of freedom at the end, affirmation of her life at the age of thirty?
5.Andres: His place in the revolution, his reputation, as a general, ruthless? Talking with Catalina at the arcades, flirting, the beach, the sexual encounter, the brusque proposal of marriage, at the table at the wedding breakfast? His life, power, his associates? Murders, arrest? His land deals? As a candidate for governor, the newspapers and the death of the editor? Election, making his wife a minister? Seeing his hard work, administration, money and budgets? His whims? Personal behaviour? His reference to his associates, the rivalries? Catalina and her attitudes, the revelation of the children? Working behind the scenes, wanting the presidency, his manoeuvres for candidacy, losing? The clash with the union leaders? Carlos and the past, his being bored with music, going to the bullfights? His daughter’s arranged marriage? His being poisoned, resigned?
6.His associates, the power plays, money, violence, factions, spying on other factions, the conversations, ruthless action?
7.Carlos, the past link with Andres, conducting the orchestra, the rehearsals, in himself, the union contacts, the affair with Catalina, the field of marigolds, wanting to conduct in Vienna, his death?
8.The children, in this wealthy world, going to school, the arranged marriage, deceiving their father?
9.Catalina’s father, the parents keeping silent about her behaviour, his getting the job, Catalina forbidding it? The effect of his death on Catalina?
10.A portrait of a 20th century woman, women’s issues, strong, in a macho world, self-assertion, the possibilities of freedom?