Como agua para chocolate / Like Water for Chocolate

Media Type: Film

Year: 1992

Who wrote / made it : Alfonso Arau

Plot summary: Como agua para chocolate signaled a turning point in Mexican cinema, when the film industry changed dramatically for multiple reasons, covered elsewhere by writers such as Deborah Shaw and Stephen M. Hart.  It broke box office records and brought Mexican cinema to the attention of a wide audience. It creates a representation of Mexico, its food, people, and politics as products for consumption. In it the Revolution is rendered apolitical, that is, simply an event which provides a charming backdrop for Tita’s (Lumi Cavazos) troubled love life.

The film is concerned wth Tita and Pedro’s (Marco Leonardi) desire for each other. They don’t get married because of a family tradition that means that the youngest must stay single and stay behind to mind her mother, Mamá Elena (Regina Torné). Mamá Elena is strict, brutal and imposes her will harshly. In order to see Tita, Pedro marries her sister Rosaura (Yareli Arizmendi), with whom he has two children. Their love is twarted at various turns and, eventually, is consumed.

Although the majority of the film takes place during the Revolution, it largely serves as local colour or as a convenient means of narrative development, as there is no real tension created in the narrative otherwise. One of these moments is when Tita’s sister, Gertrudis (Claudette Maillé), showers outdoors in order to relieve herself of the lustful ardors caused by eating one of Tita’s magical feasts. Rather than cool her, the shower cabin goes on fire and, just as she flees the building, a Revolutionary arrives at the ranch attracted by her scent of roses and arousal. They then leave, making love on the horse as they travel. Gertrudis later returns to the ranch as a general, swaggering and giving orders to her compliant followers. Later, Mamá Elena wards off a band of Revolutionaries with her keen shot and assertive posturing. In general, the Revolution is a distant danger, but, when it comes to the ranch, it is an opportunity for some light comedy and scenes of Revolutionaries carousing. Only Chencha (Pilar Aranda) makes any observations on the Revolution. Although, she is largely recounting rumours she has picked up from the local town. She is a source of much comedy due to her simplicity, servile nature and constant, ungrammatical, chatter. Therefore, her considerations of the Revolution are given little attention by the other characters.

The screenplay was adapted by Laura Esquivel from the eponymous 1989 novel and directed by her then husband.  It is therefore a faithful rendering of the original as she intended the story to be told.  There is a lot of foreshadowing in the film, visually and through the dialogue, this means that the ending is long anticipated.

Como agua para chocolate merely reinforces the impression of Mexicans as raucous, carousing, volatile and sensuous, with the Revolution as merely an exemplary instance of their unruly natures. It is hard to include in the pantheon of Revolutionary films due to its many weaknesses as a film, yet it’s equally hard to ignore, due to its popularity and significance for the contemporary Mexican industry.

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