Sundance Review: Violeta Went To Heaven

A few years ago when perusing this amazing collection of poetry on the web I came across this writer who I fell immediately in love with. His name was Nicanor Parra. In my complete obsession I scoured book stores for translations of his work, I read blurbs and bios about him online.  Which then led me to his sister, Violeta. Her archiving & creation of Chilean folk songs, her elaborate artistic tapestries, her complete devotion to a creative life of cultural pride was a story that really resonated with me and her seeming obscurity made me tell everyone I knew about her. Luckily, the first film I was able to see at Sundance was a biopic about this strong willed woman whose tragic life was still one of beauty and wonder.

 Violeta Went to Heaven was a strange portrait of a person that weaved stories from her life (plucking berries for survival as a young impoverished girl, her touring in a folk circus, her sudden Paris art career, her many familial losses) over a bed of her intense songs which resulted in the film being a kind of overview of a person, an odd surface that leaves us guessing what was on the inside of this dynamic woman. The sound design in this film was incredible (my foley trained ears ever so quick to recognize the complexity of a soundscape- the gritty harsh paintbrush sound on canvas, the muffled rush of the natural world), the cinematography was absolutely breathtaking (a muted closeness that made the world feel like a room) and the actress in the title role was born to play out this story but for someone who has come to love the quavering, vigorous, passionate voice of Violeta I am not sure if the film did her justice! But maybe that is not completely the films fault since her life passed through the world in such a strange state of public (her life's work) and private (things only hinted at in the dark corners of that life's work) becoming a simultaneously known and unknowable figure while at the same time taking on a symbol of national identity. This loose and poetic film continues Parra's mission of spreading Chilean culture and I hope it is the starting point for audiences to discover not only this powerful person but of the country she so struggled to uphold. (picture of Violeta above, picture of Francisca Gavilan as Violeta below)



 

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