European premiere for Teresa Costantini’s Felicitas

21 Nov

The European premiere of Teresa Costantini’s latest film Felicitas lent an explosive start to the twentieth London Latin American Film Festival. It is a harrowing, emotional roller-coaster of a film that tells the story of Felicitas Guerrero de Álzaga who lived among the affluent, land-owning class of Buenos Aires in the nineteenth century.

Costantini’s portrayal of the time period is flawless; the colonial architecture, period dress, contrast of country and city and presentation of women’s role in society combine to transport the audience to the birth of the Argentine Republic. Many indications highlight women’s lack of independence as Felicitas’ father warns ‘ya tiene dueño’ (she already has a master) and her cousin’s progressive thesis on women’s rights is met with fierce opposition.

The film opens with a portrayal of blissful young love as Felicitas and her adoring boyfriend, Enrique Ocampo, laughingly chase one another through a pastoral scene. But, true to the biographical details of her life, it is not long before Felicitas’ childish ignorance is dashed by one tragedy after another.

At 15 years old she is betrothed to a wealthy landowner, Don Martín de Álzaga, who is 40 years her senior, and she is forbidden from ever speaking to Enrique again. Queue a series of uncomfortable wedding scenes in which the two barely speak, accompanied by the preamble to the couple’s first night together in which the sight of Álzaga undressing a tearful Felicitas makes one’s skin crawl.

While Enrique leaves Argentina to join La Triple Alianza, a war fought by Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay against Paraguay in the 1860s, Felicitas gives birth to a son, Felix. Costantini beautifully presents the oddity of the child-mother as Felicitas, always fascinated by nature, plays with her pet frogs while sporting a large baby-bump. Her nanny oversees her play while calling her ‘niña’ and her husband refers to her as ‘mi hija’.

Sabrina Garciarena as Felicitas

Enrique returns and, after their only night of passion, Felicitas’ son falls ill and dies. From here begins a downward spiral in which Felicitas rejects the increasingly obsessed Enrique despite her ongoing love for him. In the end Felicitas is killed by the man who loved her most and she dies at the age of 26.

Costantini’s portrayal of Enrique and Felicitas’ passionate love is heart wrenching from the close-ups of the couple’s caressing hands and love-locked eyes in the opening scene to the intimate letters they exchange when apart. Sabrina Garciarena is perfectly cast as Felicitas; her laughter and tears guide the audience’s emotion as if they were one. Felicitas is one of those films that leaves you dumbfounded, made all the more poignant by the fact that it is a true story.

Next on Hispanic London: An exclusive interview with Teresa Costantini, the director of Felicitas who has been working in Argentine film since 1989.

Image 1: gabysubs

Image 2: screencrave

Video: maurob82

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One Response to “European premiere for Teresa Costantini’s Felicitas”

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  1. WordPress 2010 review for Hispanic London « HispanicLondon - January 2, 2011

    […] European premiere for Teresa Costantini’s Felicitas November 2010 […]

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