Princesita (2017)

Princesita (literally: Little Princess)
Director: Marialy Rivas
Writer: Camila Gutiérrez, Manuela Infante, Marialy Rivas
Cast: Sara Caballero, Marcelo Alonso, María Gracia Omegna, Emiliano Jofre
Part of: FrauenFilmTage
Seen on: 7.3.2018

Content note: rape

Tamara (Sara Caballero) lives in a cult led by Miguel (Marcelo Alonso) and Miguel has big plans for her: she is supposed to be the mother of the next generation. First though, she is allowed to go to school outside of the compound she’s been living so far, now that she has turned 12 years old. But that glimpse of life outside is bound to change Tamara – and Miguel certainly can’t have her disobeying his plans.

Princesita is a heavy film – not surprising, given the subject matter. Unfortunately the film doesn’t handle the subject as well as it would have deserved.

That the film uses the tagline “a dark fairy tale” should have probably be a warning sign to me (although I love fairy tales). On the one hand, there is nothing fairy tale-ish about this story, unless you consider strong, almost impressionistic images inherently fairy tale-ish. (Also, fairy tales are pretty dark. Have you ever read the brothers Grimm?) On the other hand, calling the story of a raped and abused girl a fairy tale as if it was completely made up and a fantasy thing that stuff like this happens.

In Princesita’s case, fairy tale also means that they think they can get away with logical inconsistencies. I still wonder why they would send Tamara to school outside the compound in the first place. Nobody seems to force them to and I don’t see why they would choose to do it and risk everything by letting her out.It’s such a crucial part of the set-up, you’d think that they’d give at least a perfunctory explanation for that.

But honestly, that’s not the part I struggled most with. Princesita really made me wish that movie programs didn’t just state the runtime of films, but the number of minutes spent with voice overs, too. And double that if the voice over is whispered. There was just so much of it here, to say it grated is putting it mildly.

The film isn’t all bad, not at all. Apart from the already mentioned strong imagery (although it appears that story-telling was sacrificed for it), the cast is great – Caballero is expressive and Alonso is appropriately creepy. And the subject tackled is interesting, although I really could have done without the mass rape scene. But the good parts just aren’t enough.

Summarizing: Wasted potential.

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