Original Title: La Teta Asustada
Director: Claudia Llosa
Genre: Drama, Music
Language: Spanish, Quechua
Updated on 16.April.2020
Claudia Llosa is the director of the Peruvian movie The Milk of Sorrow or La Teta Asustada. A young woman believes she has a disease called milk of sorrow, which makes her extremely averse to men, but when her mother dies, she’s forced to step outside her comfort zone.
Hello, there! I’m dos Santos, welcome to Ulven Reviews.
Fausta (played by Magaly Solier) is a young woman with an irrational fear of men, except for the ones she has very close family ties. One of these men is her uncle Lúcido (played by Marino Ballón), with whom she works.
Fausta’s mother is an old woman and even in her deathbed, she sings in their language, Quechua, about rape and the death of Fausta’s father. She raised Fausta with stories of the civil war between the Peruvian Government and Sendero Luminoso, a Maoist Guerrilla Group.
These songs and stories made Fausta so afraid, that she put a potato inside her vagina, to avoid someone raping her. The vegetable inside her eventually causes health issues, but she refuses to let the doctor remove it regardless.
When the old lady dies, the family doesn’t have enough money to take her to the city and bury her. So Fausta accepts a job as a maid for Aida (played by Susi Sánchez), a pianist in creative decadence, unable to compose new works for an upcoming presentation.
In her work as a maid, the naive Fausta has to step outside her comfort zone. She’ll have to face men, working with the gardener, Noé (played by Efraín Solís), and dealing with Aida’s manipulation and dishonesty.
The Milk of Sorrow is the second movie by Claudia Llosa with Magaly Solier as the star we are reviewing here. I said this day would come when I reviewed Madeinusa, I just had to adjust the schedule a little bit.
La teta asustada actually translates to the frightened teat, however, it became milk of sorrow in the English version. In a BBC interview, Claudia Llosa said milk of sorrow is understood as a psychological disease similar to depression present in the imaginary of the Quechuas people from the Andes.
According to this belief, a woman who was raped at some point in life would transmit the disease to her baby, through the milk, during breastfeeding, thus the name milk of sorrow.
This belief had ground to spread during the war between the Peruvian Government and Sendero Luminoso, a period when lots of rapes were committed by members of both sides of the conflict.
The movie portrays the results of the trauma caused by the internal conflict in the region in the eighties and early nineties. The appearance of the film is almost colorless, sad oppressive, lifeless, translating well the traumatized imaginary of the people.
The actors’ acting is an essential aspect to bring to life all these historically inherited emotional traumas. Magaly Solier gives the best performance in the film, but the remaining cast doesn’t leave anything to be desired.
Fausta is the protagonist, but it seems like she’s also, to some extent, a representation of the scar left by the systematic rape during these awful times. She is not from the generation that suffered directly from this violence, but still affected by it.
She is very frail and shy, it gave me the impression she was someone who needed protection, making me cheer and feel when something happened to her. But she’s also determined in her efforts of giving her mother a proper burial and has a satisfactory character arc.
Tío Lúcido and Noé are similar characters, and I liked both of them. They give support to Fausta, helping her fulfill her goals and overcome her issues. The Uncle’s relationship with the protagonist is the best, very believable.
I didn’t like the Aída character since she first appeared on screen, way before she fucks it up and shows her true colors. Maybe I’m prejudiced because she’s white or well-off, but I think it’s more about her demeanor.
Uncle Lúcido and the family organize weddings for a living, and their parties really annoyed me throughout the movie. We can see that it’s a low-budget wedding, fitting their impoverished region, so it is very nicely done. What annoyed me was that the parties dragged for too long, making the already slow-paced film, even slower.
The wedding parties were a valuable way of showing the local culture, their music, dances, and traditions. It also shows the antithesis of the mansion in which Fausta works and the posh Aida’s recital.
Related to the cultural manifestations I just mentioned, another distinction between these two worlds is their ethnicity. Aída is a white woman of European heritage, while all the common folk has indigenous and/or African characteristics.
The score is very depressive, as well as the rest of the movie. The most noticeable song being Sirena (meaning Siren or Mermaid) that has a fundamental role in the plot. Claudia Llosa is the writer of most lyrics in the film, and Magaly Solier is the performer and composer in a good part of them.
The cinematography in The Milk of Sorrow is quite appealing but stays more on the average side. It’s not gorgeous, as some other titles I’ve reviewed here, like Suspiria, but it has its merits.
The underprivileged region, where Fausta and her family live and make the parties, is not very good-looking. Still, the team making the film was able to shot some very interesting-looking scenes.
Comparing the two of Claudia Llosa’s movies reviewed here, I’m more a Madeinusa person, but it’s a matter of taste. The Thriller Madeinusa is less awarded and praised than the Drama The Milk of Sorrow. Drama is usually a genre with more awards and praise from critics.
I hear about The Milk of Sorrow since my college days, always positively, so after watching it, I was a little bit underwhelmed. I expected to have my mind blown or something. But my expectations are not the responsibility of the filmmakers.
At the end of the day, the film is a satisfactory work that brings crucial allegories about overcoming historical trauma. But I was a little bored throughout, the slow pace was my biggest problem with the movie. I’ll give The Milk of Sorrow 6 Moons.
That’s it for now. Don’t forget that raping people is never acceptable, but it’s even worse when you’re an agent of the state that should protect and not harm. Bye!
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