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Review: Holy Mother


- Antonio Chavarrías presents an interesting medieval drama starring Daniela Brown through which the dominant historical sexism is reflected

Review: Holy Mother
Daniela Brown in Holy Mother

In the 9th century, a 17-year-old girl was appointed Abbess with the task of repopulating and Christianising territories on the border and at war with Islam. Despite the mistrust aroused by a woman determined to carry out her mission, at the Abbey she will end up demonstrating the possibility of challenging dominant power structures. This is the story behind Holy Mother [+see also:
film profile
, the new film from Antonio Chavarrías, starring Daniela Brown, Blanca Romero, Carlos Cuevas and Ernest Villegas, and presented in the Official Section of the Malaga Film Festival.

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Based on a true story, a young abbess decides to step into her power to confront a patriarchal society that relegates women to a secondary and empty role. Chavarrías speaks of many conflicts that are still very present today: the struggle of women to find their place and be respected in a masculine world, the confrontation between religion and culture, the clash between dogmatic ideologies versus more open and tolerant ones, love versus social pressures. This is precisely one of the most interesting aspects of the film, in how, from considering the most human and personal side of a historical character, to their contradictions, internal struggles and dark sides. And with this, from raising issues about the human condition, the struggle between faith and instinct, the meaning of faith and the need to believe in something, the film reveals itself as a story about the dominant historical sexism. As well as the domination of the male gaze, it deals with the questioning of women, the fear of being singled out and humiliated, about how this sexism can determine and destroy a whole life, about how in fact it has been doing so for centuries.

Antonio Chavarrías tells this story by creating a classical film in its forms, with a certain epic and symbolic tone, playing with colour (the recurring image of the nuns' black dress in contrast with the flames of the fire, oppression and sacrifice in constant struggle with the threats of nature), light, landscape and sound. A film that largely relies on the visually powerful image, with close-ups of great expressiveness, but also on the script, on what the characters say or don't say. This is another of its most interesting achievements. Despite the fact that at times it lacks rhythm and there are events that are told that are not very plausible, it is a well-written film. In a restraint manner, without superfluous artifice It manages to maintain the epic tone very well and a certain poeticism that it sets out to achieve.

Holy Mother is a well-resolved film, at times irregular, with visually powerful images. Its strength lies in the dialogue it achieves between past and present, in how this medieval drama about a revolt against the dominant power ends up revealing itself as a mirror to what we are now, raising debates and conflicts that are still very much alive in the modern world.

Holy Mother is a co-production between Spain and Belgium by Oberon Media, Wanda Visión, Saga Film and Icono 2020 AIE, and Film Constellation manages international sales.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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