Director: Humberto Solas
Starring: Raquel Revuelta, Eslinda Nunez, Adela Legra
I *must* open this review by thanking the man who made it possible, Chip of TipsFrom Chip, who VERY kindly noticed I hadn’t seen this and sent me his DVD copy. I’ve had solid success in locating hard to find films from 1001 Films, but there have been some titles that have constantly eluded me, and this was one of them. So THANK YOU CHIP for providing me an opportunity to cross this one off the list.
The central narrative structure in Lucia is based on an interesting conceit. We have three separate stories, told one at a time, each following a woman named Lucia in different time periods in Cuba. The first, set in 1895 has Lucia (Revuelta) falling for a well-to-do man who, in turn, deceives her. This is set against the backdrop of revolution against the Spanish. The second, set in the 1930s, has its Lucia (Nunez) falling for a revolutionary and getting caught up in the world of strikes and attacks and governmental overthrow herself. The third, set in the “current” Cuba of the 1960s, has its Lucia (Legra) as a worker at a communal farm who marries fellow communist and farm worker Tomas. But Tomas is insanely jealous, and soon physically locks Lucia in his house during the day, refusing to let her leave.
|Lucia #1 and her parallel, the town crazy.|
While each of the stories is a love story between each Lucia her man, each love is set against the backdrop of some sort of political conflict. And as such, I feel vastly under qualified to comment on Solas’ message. As much as the film really focuses on the love stories, I get the feeling that’s not really what it’s about. I get the feeling that this film is largely about Cuba’s evolution (or lack thereof, I can’t tell) through the years, but with absolutely zero context on my part, I felt like most of the film went over my head. My ludicrously nationalistic history courses in school (I only ever took two – period – and they were American History I and American History II) have left me with a less than stellar understanding of international politics.
So instead I’ll just talk about the superficial love stories.
All three stories start happily enough, with our various and sundry Lucias meeting their husband/suitor and enjoying that sunny honeymoon period. But in all three, reality sets in and things turn sour. I was most compelled by the first story. In this one, the one that opens the film, Solas sets up his 1895 Cuba full of Victorian elegance and expected melodrama. Just as I was starting to think that I was in for a stuffy and ridiculous drawing room play, Solas goes into a horribly graphic retelling of how the local crazy woman got that way. It involved lots of horribly mangled dead bodies and the traumatizing rape of a nun. I think that’s why I responded the best to this first tale; just when I thought I knew where it would go, Solas turned the story on its ear and showed me things I was definitely not expecting to see. The second two stories are far more predictable, and lack the interesting parallels drawn in the first tale between our Lucia and the town crazy.
Additionally, I have to give Solas props for incredibly visceral and disturbing battle sequences in the first story. There is confusion and mud and bodies and yelling. Frankly, it’s the opening beach sequence of Saving Private Ryan but without the blood. You might think to yourself “but the blood is the point!” but I disagree. While the conventions of the time kept Solas from showing just as much graphic violence as he probably wanted to, he nonetheless manages to depict the same sense of frightening chaos that Saving Private Ryan pulls off. It’s chaotic, but it never seems to get away from Solas. I was impressed with that sequence. It was harsh and dirty and scary, and completely unexpected, given the Victorian love story I had hitherto been watching.
While I was most compelled by this first story, the second story is the most palatable, mostly because the love story is the most honest. Lucia #2 loves Aldo, and Aldo loves Lucia #2. She finds, through him, a sense of purpose in her thus far meandering life. The actress (who, by the way, is a dead ringer for Winona Ryder) is beguiling and charming and fundamentally likeable. Although it doesn’t end well, I felt the connection between Lucia #2 and Aldo the most out of all the love stories. In comparison, the love stories in the first and third segments are incredibly frustrating, as they involve women who keep on turning back to men who treat them badly. Once Lucia #1’s lover deceives her the first time, I was rooting for her to turn away from him. But no, she crawls back to him, so frankly, she shouldn’t have been so surprised when he deceives her a second time. In the third story, communism is seen as a way of freeing Lucia #3 from the literal jail her husband has concocted, but it is unsuccessful (which really makes me wonder just what Solas was saying, politically). Lucia breaks from her husband, then turns back to him. What… what is going on here? DUDE BOARDED UP THE WINDOWS AND LOCKED THE DOOR AND YOU RAN BACK FOR MORE. Nope, I don’t buy it. Not for a second.
Overall, Lucia has an interesting concept behind it, but the execution was spotty (by the end of the film, it had completely lost my attention), the abusive relationships jarred on me, and a total lack of historical understanding on my part left me feeling a bit befuddled. There is some solid stuff here, but not enough to make me want to come back for seconds.
Arbitrary Rating: 6/10