The Milk Of Sorrow (La Teta Asustada)
The protagonist of this sombre allegorical drama is the impassive Fausta (Magaly Solier), a fearful young indigenous Peruvian woman who lives in a shanty settlement on a mountainside settlement outside Lima. According to indigenous folklore she is suffering from the ‘milk of sorrow’, which was transmitted through the breast milk of her recently deceased mother, who was raped during the civil war of the 1980s. Needing money to pay for the latter’s burial, she must work in the city as a maid for an emotionally volatile concert pianist (Susi Sanchez).
Writer-director Claudia Llosa shoots potentially sensationalist material with admirable restraint, favouring medium and long shots from fixed camera positions, whilst keeping the atrocities themselves off-screen. (Instead, in the film’s haunting opening scene we listen over a black screen to the dying mother’s chants about her ordeals.) Contrasting two diametrically opposed worlds, the filmmaker finds a measure of beauty in the rituals and superstitions of life in an impoverished community, notably in the weddings arranged by Fausta’s relatives. Solier too impresses in the role of the traumatised individual, who gradually gives voice through her own songs to long-suppressed feelings.
GFT, Glasgow from Sun 16-Wed 19 May. Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Mon 28 Jun-Thu 1 Jul.