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SEMINCI 2023

Review: Teresa

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- Spanish director Paula Ortiz once again spares no expense in aestheticism with her new film, full of intense dialogue and hallucinatory visions of the saint

Review: Teresa
Asier Etxeandía and Blanca Portillo in Teresa

Eight years ago, the second film by Paula Ortiz, a filmmaker from Zaragoza trained in literature who made her feature directorial debut with Chrysalis [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, surprised audiences at San Sebastian Film Festival, as well as at other festivals where it screened. It was entitled The Bride [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Paula Ortiz
film profile
]
and it adapted Bodas de sangre by the great Federico García Lorca with great lyricism, an astonishing staging and actors such as Inma Cuesta, Álex García and Asier Etxeandía. The latter stars in his fourth feature film, Teresa, again an adaptation of a previous text, La lengua en pedazos, by the playwright Juan Mayorga (based on El libro de la vida, written by Saint Teresa de Jesús), and, once again, exuding aestheticism, sensationalism and poetry. Its world premiere took place in the official section, out of competition, of the 68th Seminci - Semana Internacional de Cine de Valladolid, and its international premiere will take place in competition at the upcoming Tallinn Black Nights Festival.

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But this time it is Blanca Portillo who co-stars, an actress (one of the Spikes of Honour at this year's Seminci) who has maintained a close relationship with Etxeandía since they starred in a postmodern theatrical version of Dangerous Liaisons a few years ago. As in that play, both performers - dressed in period costumes - face each other in a high-flying acting and verbal duel, where they display a whole range of emotions, arguments and verbiage.

It is precisely this excess of verbiage with 16th century terminology and recital that thickens this piece, which does not try to hide its theatrical origin, even though many of its scenes were filmed in brightly lit exteriors. It tells how the nun, writer, mystic and founder of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites is visited by an inquisitor who questions her works and faith. An intense dialectical battle of more than 90 minutes is laid out between the two, with images that move between the surreal and the remembered.

As the conversation progresses, the film becomes a manifesto on rebellion, tenacity and doubt. The central theme of this visual exercise that focuses more on the aesthetic beauty of its shots (in some of which the actress Greta Fernández features as young Teresa) than on making its dialogue, full of symbolism, twists and metaphors, accessible and appealing to a contemporary audience. Because what works on stage and under the spotlights of a theatre stage does not always manage to retain its charm intact in front of a camera.

As in The Bride (or in her recent release Across the River and Into the Trees, a film set in Venice), Ortiz again captures beautiful locations to set the monastic life of the protagonist. Situating also the hallucinatory and hallucinated visions that not only bring her closer to her god, but also to her fiercest enemy: the fragility implicit in all belief and faith.

Teresa is a Spanish film by La lengua en pedazos A.I.E., Bluebird Films and Inicia Films, in co-production with the Portuguese company Nu Boyana Portugal. Filmax manages international sales.

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(Translated from Spanish by Vicky York)

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