The Film Teller isn’t a love letter to cinema like the films about films that precede it—it’s a love letter to the neighborhood that grows from the seeds of storytelling. Primarily based on Chilean creator Hernán Rivera Letelier’s novel La Contadora de Películas, it’s a sweeping, decades-spanning story concerning the enduring spirit of humanity, as informed by the movie’s titular “Film Teller” María Margarita.
At instances, Walter Salles, Isabel Coixet, and Rafa Russo’s screenplay feels meandering because it weaves its means by way of María’s childhood and early maturity. It flits and falters with its potential, at instances, slipping by way of the cracks just like the wonderful salt and sand that coats each floor within the barren wasteland of Chile’s Atacama Desert. This potential weak spot, nonetheless, is a bonus for The Film Teller’s core thesis. It offers it an fringe of authenticity that helps it to flourish. Life isn’t like a movie—it’s unpolished and imperfect. Life usually turns into extra compelling within the remaining act, proper once we’re unprepared for it to finish.
For the small salt mining neighborhood on the coronary heart of The Film Teller, their native cinema turns into their most sacred area. It’s there, within the packed theater, that the neighborhood comes collectively each Sunday for just a few hours of escapism—an expertise that’s nonetheless simply as particular immediately because it was in 1966. By means of the movies they watch, the neighborhood is transported to faraway locations, the place days aren’t full of endless onerous labor within the salt mines, and the persons are unbothered by the slow-turning wheels of political turmoil and free to comply with their lofty goals. Motion pictures tackle a a lot bigger life for every character in The Film Teller, however it’s María Margarita who’s essentially the most remodeled by them. For María, films develop into her second language—one which solely she is actually fluent in inside her neighborhood, and even her household. If the neighborhood is the saplings that develop from the seeds of storytelling, then María is a gardener who fastidiously nourishes that communal spirit, encouraging it to develop and thrive even below oppressive circumstances.
‘The Film Teller’ Is About Extra Than Simply Motion pictures
The movie explores María Margarita’s life in two phases: first because the bright-eyed youngest daughter (Alondra Valenzuela) of a salt miner, who’s thick as thieves along with her older brothers, and hungry for the sorts of journey and drama she sees in movies, and later as a blossoming younger lady (Sara Becker) that life’s hardships have formed into her household’s principal breadwinner. As hopes for a greater, brighter future start to die, so too does the native cinema. However Maria retains the spirit of movie alive for her neighborhood, clinging to it like a lifeline to a kinder world.
Lone Scherfig’s path fantastically collides with the imperfect world María lives in, and he or she fastidiously crafts every scene along with her starry-eyed optimism in thoughts. Even the rawest, ugliest components of María’s life develop into romanticized however by no means sensationalized. Scherfig pulls from the films that María watches—by no means overtly, however subtly—to assist contextualize every new tragedy that visits. Within the fingers of every other director, María’s tragedies could have been exploited for shock worth, however Scherfig permits the actresses to convey what occurs off-screen. In a way, this tactic mirrors María’s function as a “film teller.” Audiences don’t have to see the bloody aftermath of her father’s life-altering harm, not when intercut scenes of María’s terror-filled eyes watching the horrors of trench warfare can convey the identical that means.
This styling turns into much more profound within the second act of The Film Teller, when the city’s lecher sexually assaults María. Scherfig doesn’t drive the viewers to witness it, however she permits the script to inform us concerning the aftermath. With haunted eyes, Becker takes the stage in entrance of her neighborhood and relays what occurred to her below the guise of reenacting a movie for them. It’s a gorgeous show of female rage and one which explores the act of reclaiming trauma by way of artwork.
There’s a unusual kind of magnificence threaded by way of all of María’s relationships, each intimate and familial, which is born from her dreamy, storyteller’s gaze. It permits her to deal with actuality and discover it inside the protected confines of the silver display screen. Males usually take middle stage in films about films, however The Film Teller is solely rooted within the female expertise—the great, the unhealthy, and the ugly. Essentially the most advanced relationship in María’s life is the one she shares along with her mom, María Magnolia (Bérénice Bejo). Regardless of the alternatives that María Magnolia makes after Medardo (Antonio de la Torre Martín) is pressured out of labor due to his accidents, The Film Teller by no means paints her as a foul lady, only a determined one. Her goals have been stifled by marriage and motherhood—one thing that many ladies can sympathize with—and it’s one thing that María Margarita grows to grasp as she turns into a determined lady too.
Politics and Historical past Affect ‘The Film Teller’
With the political turmoil of the rise and fall of socialist chief Salvador Allende enjoying out within the background of The Film Teller, it’s fascinating to see how the movie subtly explores the idea of “the compulsion to repeat,” which was one among many concepts that Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Friedrich Nietzsche explored. Earlier than María Magnolia slips out of her daughter’s life, she asks her to vow that she gained’t repeat the identical selections she made. María Margarita refuses to make the promise, and by doing so, condemns herself to comply with in her mom’s footsteps. For instance, that is most pointedly proven by way of María Margarita’s affair with Hauser (Daniel Brühl), who may’ve had an affair along with her mom as effectively.
Hauser is a method to an finish for each girls—an act of escapism, identical to a film. For María Magnolia his generosity helped pave the street to her freedom, and for María Margarita, he’s merely a instrument to permit her to lastly really feel answerable for her personal future. The Film Teller is cautious in navigating by way of each relationships, by no means portray them as torrid affairs or romances, they merely are what they’re. Hauser is a personality that exists on the periphery of María Margarita’s life, weaving out and in as she grows up. He’s neither an antagonist nor a protagonist, which is a task that doesn’t afford the character a lot depth or nuance. Brühl elevates the character by way of his bodily efficiency—which is a language not dissimilar from the one on the coronary heart of the movie. Hauser tries to do proper by María’s household, even when he has no actual motive to, and it’s Brühl’s performing selections that enable the viewers to learn between the traces and discover depth the place there may be little.
In the identical means that the actors carry added context by way of little touches and passing glances, Scherfig makes use of a plethora of visible callbacks and allusions to set the tone and drive the narrative at play. When María embarks on her affair with Hauser she alters her wardrobe. She seems to be extra like her mom than ever earlier than in her completely pressed skirt and shirt, however she additionally seems to be just like the heroine of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, with a blue chiffon scarf tied round her throat. It’s a pleasure for film lovers to see the delicate methods the movie weaves the themes and visuals of iconic movies into the fibers of its personal scenes.
The Film Teller is a gorgeous and transferring look into how cinema can carry a neighborhood collectively and the way artwork might help to heal damaged hearts. There’s a lot unsaid between the characters, and but the unstated phrases are understood by the viewers as a result of all of us communicate the identical language. It’s the language of flicks, a language that we—like María—have internalized and handed on by way of the tales we inform. In Valenzuela and Becker, the movie has one unbelievable lead who embodies the eternal endurance of the human spirit. The simplicity and imperfect realism of The Film Teller will stick to its viewers, planting seeds that flourish into not possible gardens in salt-laden deserts.
The Large Image
- The Film Teller is a love letter to the neighborhood that grows from storytelling, somewhat than a love letter to cinema like different films about films.
- The movie’s meandering screenplay really provides to its authenticity and offers it an edge, portraying life as unpolished and imperfect.
- The film explores the transformative energy of movie for a small salt mining neighborhood, with the protagonist María Margarita changing into fluent within the language of flicks and utilizing them to nourish a communal spirit.
The Film Teller had its world premiere on the 2023 Toronto Worldwide Movie Competition.