La soldadera

Media Type: Film

Year: 1966

Who made it : José Bolaños

Plot summary: La soldadera follows the experiences of Lazara (Silvia Pinal) during the Revolution. She is a soldadera, as it is conventionally understood: she follows her partner, Juan (Jaime Fernández) into war and stays on after he dies to cook, nurse, carry arms, and, when needed, to fight as a foot soldier. Two of the men she accompanies die in battle. Lazara’s lot is subject to forces outside of her control, that is, her partner(s) and the conflict. If the women fight, as one character comments, “porque estos [hombres] se pelean” [because these [men] do], men do so out of hunger. War is not glorious. Lazara suffers in misery, and there is little solidarity among the women as they all struggle to survive. This film uses a variety of techniques to suggest at the futility of the Revolution: it has a sparse style; the camera is at eye-level, generally avoiding the celebratory low level shots often used in earlier films; traveling shots reveal dusty, war torn, ragged human beings; and it has a circular form, beginning at the same point as it ends: observing a train move through the landscape. The narrative shows the losses endured as Lazara sees her home town destroyed and she loses two men in battle. It is evident from La soldadera that the violent Revolution was no longer to be celebrated, and that women’s roles in it was more complicated than those represented in the films starring Félix, where she was shown leading men into battle amid glorious songs of success on the battlefield. La soldadera was an early example of new ways of seeing the Revolution which moved towards an experimental, questioning, challenging style that would be part of a dramatic shift in filmmaking in Mexico.

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