The film tells the story of two girls, each around twenty years old. One, Lala, is the daughter of a wealthy family that lives in Buenos Aires. The other, Guayi, is a servant in Lala’s house. The two fall in love and, as imdb so curtly summarizes: the girls, “unable to find a place for their love in the world they live in, are pushed to commit a crime”. But it is a mistake to classify this movie as a social drama dealing with the touchy issue of homosexuality in Latin America. It seems that “the world [that the girls] live in” is more forbidding because of the class differences between them. Guayi is Paraguayan and while I am no expert I have the feeling from being here a few months that the two countries are seen as completely different. While my image of Argentina prioritizes Buenos Aires and urban culture Paraguay has no comparable city. Paraguay’s population is also more impoverished. Yet what makes Paraguay an interesting choice is the enormous population (the majority) of Paraguayans who speak the indigenous language, guaraní, if only because it so clearly suggests the legacy antecedent to Spain’s.
Yet the main character is not Guayi but Lala who flees home early in the story to visit Guayi’s home. The film does not take you to the most rural, urban, or impoverished part of Paraguay—it takes you to Guayi’s past. I liked how the images could portray the difference in the landscape while maintaining a focus on the story. Lucía Puenzo has also made a movie called XXY about a hermaphrodite. I want to see that to see if she deals with the social and sexual themes there as deftly as she does here.
In El niño pez Lala is played by Inés Efron, who played Alex, the lead of XXY. Efron does not have the same beauty as Mariela Vitale, who plays Guayi. Maybe I can clarify what I mean if I tell you that Vitale appeared nude in playboy not long ago. Vitale has a commercial beauty, a look that can be marketed because somehow it signifies something verifiable. I might compare her to Megan Fox from the Transformers movies in this way. I wanted to clarify this because, although I think Efron was casted for her superior acting talent and history with the director I also think her appearance was engineered to compliment Vitale’s. Lala dresses in tank-tops and jeans while Guayi wears short skirts and thongs. Lala is skinny and pale. Guayi exudes the exotic, the indigenous—think Disney’s Pocahontas.
Throughout the movie Lala is followed when she leaves Buenos Aires and returns to find her world turned inside out. She sees Guayi with a man and feels extremely jealous. One of my friends pointed out that this jealousy smacked of the machismo culture that I have gotten to know a little better on the streets and in the boliches of Buenos Aires. And, without going too far, I think that Efron’s character is intentionally made more masculine in contrast with Vitale’s. I am not sure what to make of the gender scripting mixed with class and sexuality but I certainly think argentine cultural values heavily affected how this story was put together, for better and for worse.
It always starts on Tuesday. I have to tell my friends that I can’t go out for a nightcap with them because I have to get all my work done for the next day and I have to go to bed early because I have to get up early.
On Wednesday, my alarm goes off at 7:30 in the morning. I unintentionally snooze it until about 8:15 if I’m good. I leap out of bed and run to the shower. Showering takes some time, drying takes some time, and packing my book bag always takes some time, time that I need to budget so I can run down the street the two blocks it’ll take me to catch the bus. The bus only comes every 20 minutes.
I take the bus to Franzosischerstrasse. That’s “French Street” for us, the Americans. From there I run down the nearest set of stairs and get on the subway, usually a quick transfer to make. I ride the subway for three stops, until I reach Zinnowitzerstrasse. I don’t know what that translates to for us, the Americans.
AHHH! So glad that I can do a “ranting” post. I’m desperately in need of ranting. I’ve found myself in the course of the mere past two weeks flooded with emotions, just trying to deal with the daily life of Berlin. I’ll give a synopsis of the low points of my days so far.
Wednesday. 8:30a. Wake up and have an anxiety attack about having not comprehended any of the reading I had to do the previous night. 8:45. Shower and pack and get dressed, generally my anxiety has quelled by this point. 9:10. Leave the dorm and walk to the bus stop, having forgotten my monthly pass, apologize to the bus driver and have him grimace at me, muttering incomprehensible German. He still lets me ride for free but definitely begrudgingly. 10:00. My class starts, or rather my class should be starting. My teacher comes in late, apologizes, and rants about the recent politics of the EU without really having given us the basis of the lecture. It’s entirely frustrating. The mood of my day has been set by this point: I am intense, I am nervous, I am frustrated.
I get lunch with a couple friends and calm down, I go to a book store and look over the scarcely stocked English section until I realize that all of the books there are either classics that I read during high school, or “pop-ologies” that I have no interest in reading. My frustration is reignited, especially upon finding one Toni Morrison book that I’d like to read, but it costing 20.00 Euro. I leave, back to school.
From 2:00p until 3:15, I sit in German class. The instructor does not speak English to us which is probably to our benefit and I might appreciate to some degree if I weren’t so entirely on edge from a frustrating day. I pretend like I know what’s going on. I smile and nod, but my heart races. I sip ferociously a small cup of coffee until I’m begging for the last drop to just fall. I need the energy to get through the day.
4:00. I go to my seminar style class which I thought I loved the first week, but now I realize that it’s the same thing as the A.P. U.S. History class I took in high school. What’s more, it’s filled with all the students who are in my EU class earlier that day, except not ALL of them. Only the one’s that know EVERYTHING, and really aren’t ashamed to quietly laugh amongst themselves when I, completely burnt out from my day, ask about why Disney’s Pocahontas is central to our analysis of American identity and conceptualizing European identity.
I get out of our ugly prison-style, East German school building. I buy a pack of cigarettes and smile when I realize they are exactly half the cost that they’d be in New York, but frown when I remember that they are only packed with 17, and not 20, cigarettes. I come home, I read, I crash. I get emails from my mom asking me why I haven’t been in touch. Friends try to get to me on Facebook and don’t understand that I really cannot spend too much time sleeping here, and when I’m not sleeping, it’s entirely important to me that I spend my waking hours with the few people on this trip that are actually decent towards me, which does not include my roommate.
Still, I don’t regret studying abroad. I regret not being able to adjust to this new culture’s grind quicker. I find myself in a strange depression I’ve never been in before. Not strange in its intensity, but strange in that I can’t find a way to cope decently with it. No longer does burying my head in academic life help me like it used to. In fact, burying my head in academic life just makes me more concerned about my grades falling, and falling fast. I’ve worked so hard since being at NYU, and the past two weeks just have me so, so concerned. I need a goal, I need my motivation to be reignited.