When political gets personal
Yesterday Vivir and other fictions (Jo Sol, 2016) was released in Barcelona. We were so touched! We loudly applaud, we whistle and shouted “bravoooo” before a frankly excited team who has left the skin (and pockets) to get this project forward. These signs of enthusiasm weren’t the result of the easy joy of reassuring ends, but an exuberance of emotion contained after finishing a film that won’t allow you to breathe. Here neither the boy ends up with the girl, and the father doesn’t reconnect with the son. Life is fucked up and there’s no such thing as normality, like Pepe’s character: “an image stuck on the wall that shows a family frustratingly perfect and happy.” An image that makes us want to tear it up when passing by it and that, however, we tend to caress with nostalgia when nobody is looking.
The movie as well as the different videos and campaigns that complement the filming process (commented on a previous post), travels between reality and fiction, metaphor and crudeness. It makes you laugh and it leaves you breathless. If anyone was expecting an idealization of the difference or a romanticizing stigma, this is not your movie. The first scenes show us a naked quadriplegic body. We’re used to see actors leaving the gym to sit in a wheelchair and play the “crippled” character (just check the chest of Las Sesiones or Me Before You main characters, to name a few of the more recent movies), in this one we can witness the morning hygiene of an inert, rigid, twisted body, a body that is oblivious to the variations of standing, a body manipulated by expert hands that rub, rinse, dry and carefully place clothes and other prosthesis. With close cuts, slow movements; no shame. It’s not that functional diversity is coming out, it’s recording life from the inside: we see the collector and a bag for urine because that body can’t control the sphincters; we see the harness and the crane, because that body can’t lift by itself; we see the wheelchair because that body can’t walk.
These crude and honest but not dramatic images place us in the daily life of one of its main characters: Antonio Centeno, who in his best interpretation of himself and throughout the movie is sure of himself and is chatty, ironic, committed and brave. And what a better counterbalance to this Don Quixote that theorizes the revolution of the bodies than his down-to-earth personal assistants: Pepe and Laura, who with humour and apparent simplicity, throw the darts that destabilize humanize the speech. One of the shots from the movie revolves around “sexual assistance”, a “service” that Antonio runs up in his house (as there is no other place to do it) so his friends with functional diversity and himself “can access their bodies”, that is saying that someone is hired to masturbate them. Answering the question of my post “How would your life be if you couldn’t masturbate?” Antonio answers in a powerful way: a life without desire would be empty; a body without pleasure, would be a mere piece of flesh. Like he says: “this society got to this point: we put so much fear in our bodies that we’re busy only trying to survive and not living.”
Faced with this activist claim, which combines the romanticism of the great ideals with the logic of mathematics (see Antonio Centeno’s proposal for sexual assistance of real life), Pepe and Laura put a voice to the doubts that assail us as spectators. (Warning, start spoilers). Pepe, in one of the most hilarious moments of the film, inquire to Antonio “are you going to ask the State to jerk you off in the middle of an economic crisis?” Laura also feels uncomfortable because Antonio’s house is “now full of whores and becoming a brothel” and, confronting Antonio’s justification of “sexual revolution”, she responds angrily: “Yes, man, now the liberation of women is going to be jerk off cripple men!! “. In a brave and transgressive film, but that does not pass the Bechdel’s test, these scenes are really worthy.
In short, Vivir y otras ficciones flees from “good versus bad” and tackles delicate issues with an exquisite blend of honesty and poetics. It confuses us and excites us. It puts urgency on the table and shakes us into important things. It doesn’t offer a rigid and unquestionable model of sexual assistance, but rather shows lives of people who refuse to be suspended while life goes on: complex, fragile and many times painful lives, thrown away to the borders. But also people that make battlefields out of their bodies, turning anguish into flamenco.
This post was originally written in Spanish. Click here for the original text.