A memory-lapse concussion yields one of the 21st century arthouse's more intriguing enigmas: first, an admittedly obvious commentary where a bourgeois woman wanders through her routine in a daze with hardly anybody noticing, and second as a mystery with (just barely) enough plot to hook you in. Easy answers are absent, naturally; Martel's triumph is creating a heroine soulful enough to be both innocent and guilty.
Martel makes those most remarkable of films, the ones where each reading must alienate every other viewer. Woman is about several themes that I'm sure of, but specifically I'm clueless to their intent. Great! What a puzzle parsing relationships in her work and seeing a gorgeous widescreen presentation that depicts mainly intense close-ups. She gets so close to the confusion & horror of benefiting from colonisation.
If this were compressed and published as a short story, it would be an absolutely terrifying and nasty masterpiece — (the gradual horror of all these people quietly eroding her ability to take responsibility, and it’s all happening in the daylight, so still and mundane) — but Lucrecia furnishes this simple, devastating story with a slow onslaught of haunting images and sounds that stay in your mind forever
Class and race guilt, rather than warfare, is the name of the game here. A rich seam of shame, not rage, oozes up to feed the film's fugue. Martel counterpoints Veronica's cloudy confusion, which can seem as self-serving (and possibly affected) as her pre-accident ease, with multiple lines of focus and clarity in the lives around her. Like an Argentinian Antonioni, Martel coolly sets alienation against authenticity.
I haven't seen a movie before where the central character changing her hair functions as a kind of plot twist. Shallow depth of field and lack of camera movement (after the initial sequence) are usually a drain on my ability to focus - being brought up on post-1970s American movies makes one antsy for the jolt that a roaming camera provides - but Martel uniquely aligns the spectator with Onetto, lost in the fuzz.
I enjoy how Veronica's distractedness generates a line of futility which does not negate all the exuberant life surrounding her. Martel gets a lot out of these elements working against each other in different ways. And the director is less condescending here than in LA CIÉNAGA. Still, I find her style relentless. Certain formal decisions--her insistence on underlining jarring diagetic sounds-- seem too overstated.
The film is "about" a car accident, but it's clear that there is much more going on behind the scenes here. Look to the women in The Headless Woman: they are sick; they have fevers; their livers are failing; they are told they will infect others; they are mistaken for childless, barren women. They are eventually reduced to nothing, as is Vero when she discovers that she seems not to exist. Powerful and existential.
Martel enables the viewer to experience the almost total disorientation that is also plaguing the central character following her realisation that she has knocked something over. Scenes flow with very little explanation and the constant introduction of new characters is almost impossible to decipher especially in regards to their relationship to Vero. Exposes the injustices in Argentinian society too.
Lucretia Martel is an expert in the construction of perception. Her cinematic language is masterful and the way images merge with sound is no less than fantastic. An immersion into the head and soul of a woman on the edge of breakdown that represents an exquisite metaphor of Argentina's bourgeoise. A political subtext regarding the dirty war gives that particular theme a new fresh vision.