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Ema

A film choreography centered around a dancer in search of something: Ema has separated from her husband and given up her adopted son. In despair, she roams across coastal city Valparaíso.

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Everything is on fire at Ema’s (Mariana Di Girolamo) – in the literal sense of the word. She gave back an orphaned boy which she recently adopted with her husband Gastón (Gael García Bernal) after he played with fire and severely injured his sister. Now she’s going around the city at night with a flamethrower to torch traffic lights and cars to can vent because Ema regrets her decision and wants her son back. But it’s too late for that. Everyone is making the professional dancer feel like she made a mistake and the already difficult marriage to Gastón seems to be over. But instead of making peace with the situation and focusing entirely on dancing like her social counsellor advises, Ema goes to war against society and for love. In her battle she uses all the weapons at her disposal, especially the energy, elegance, and seductive power of her body and soul.
You don’t have to find the heroine of Pablo Larraín’s new film sympathetic in order to be spellbound by her. In fact, the exceptional Chilean director seems to intend on the opposite. Ema is, similar to Natalie Portman’s great work as the presidential widow in Larraín’s JACKIE, not a woman that you want to hug. It seems like an invisible wall seals her off from her surroundings. Conversations are usually head-on, provocative, and often hurtful to both sides. You only warm up to her at the very end, and actually it’s a bit too late. What’s consistently impressive, however, is the visual and musical-aesthetic force of the film.

Pamela Jahn

Translation: Elinor Lewy

Credits

Chile 2019, 102 min
Genre: Drama
Director: Pablo Larrain
Author: Guillermo Calderón, Alejandro Moreno
DOP: Sergio Armstrong
Montage: Sebastián Sepúlveda
Music: Nicolas Jaar
Distributor: Koch Films
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Mariana Di Girolamo, Santiago Cabrera, Mariana Loyola
FSK: 16
Release: 22.10.2020

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