Director Paula Ortiz’s brilliant spin on Federico García Lorca’s classic play Blood Wedding unfolds within the film’s first few seconds. La Novia (The Bride) opens with an overhead shot of a woman who appears almost mummified in a torn and bloodied dress. After a sudden gasp for air, actress Inma Cuesta peels away the sullied layers and slowly emerges, digging her fingers into the slimy bed of mud and earth.
This moment, which isn’t part of the play, imagines the bride’s demise. Interestingly, it also foreshadows her resuscitation. She will live — if only to face the tragic outcome of her actions. Ortiz’s cinematic rendition of Lorca’s tragedy adds a fascinating dimension to the original by amplifying the world of women.
Set somewhere between the 1930s and '50s in rural Spain, la novia (Inma Cuesta) is set to marry a kind, hardworking man (Asier Etxeandia). However, lingering feelings for Leonardo (Álex García), with whom she had a previous relationship, begin to bubble to the surface, and as the nuptials commence, passions and rancor erupt. There is also a dark family history at play. Decades earlier, Leonardo’s cousin stabbed the groom’s father to death, and his mother is still profoundly bitter. Luisa Gavasa embodies the mother’s resentment with a visceral performance.
In the second scene, the bride confesses to her mother-in-law that she left the wedding party with another man. “I went with the other one,” she utters. “You would have done the same.” This flash-forward (in the play, this confession comes at the end) front-loads the already foreseen tragedy with mystery and drama. It exemplifies Ortiz’s inventive script (co-written with Javier García Arredondo) and willingness to take risks.
Cuesta is arresting as la novia. Languid closeup shots of her dark, searching eyes and inquisitive eyebrows reveal a complex portrait of a hopeful bride derailed by a vertiginous longing for unrequited love. Ortiz also incorporates a few key flashback scenes of the bride, the groom, and Leonardo as children and close friends, intimating that their connection has endured for decades. A scene in which the three young friends innocently witness adult violence adds depth to the theme of generational rancor and retribution.
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Blood Wedding, part of Lorca’s “rural trilogy,” explores nature, destiny, and the shadowy world that exists between the two. In La Novia, María Alfonsa Rosso poses as a beggar, but she really embodies death and the illusive crossroads. Ortiz also incorporates magical realist elements to exemplify these themes of fate and nature. In a dance that is only briefly alluded to in the play, Ortiz fashions a carnivalesque scene in which la novia spins while visions of the moon, Leonardo, and flames whirl around her. This scene is also the transformative moment that precedes the film’s climax. In this heady, ecstatic dancing, la novia becomes the woman who will forsake everything to follow a love she knows will have dire consequences for all.
— Mia Leonin, Artburstmiami.com
La Novia (The Bride)
Opens Friday, August 5, and runs through August 12 at the Tower Theater, 1508 SW Eighth St., Miami. Visit towertheatermiami.com or call 305-237-2463.