Maria Full of Grace

Artykuł pochodzi z pisma "Guardian"

Maria Full of Grace

Catalina Sandino Moreno was 2005's dark horse Oscar nominee for best actress in this movie from writer-director Joshua Marston - losing out to Hilary Swank. She is a first-time actress playing Maria, a dirt-poor Colombian teenager, pregnant by a feckless and uncaring boyfriend, who is offered undreamed-of riches to be a drug mule, bringing narcotics into Kennedy airport from Bogotá. Thousands of dollars can be hers. All she has to do is swallow 70 sachets of condom-wrapped heroin, each approximately as long as a fat tampon, and hope that one or more does not split open inside her stomach on the flight over.

A film with this truly horrible image, and this title, might appear to offer an excoriating parody of the sacrament and the Roman Catholic church, with Maria as the hyper-contemporary sacrificial lamb. Perhaps that is tacitly what the movie is doing. But, though there is one shot showing Maria at prayer, the church is not obviously indicted as part of any great geopolitical hypocrisy; neither, conversely, is it shown standing up to the drug barons and the hard men who exploit South America's working poor. The United States itself, whose slavering thirst for drugs drives the whole connection, is also notably exempt from criticism, and there is even a stirring speech from one respectable Colombian immigrant in New York saying how proud she was to receive her first American pay-cheque and she can't imagine going back to the old country.
In fact, it is difficult to see exactly what larger moral or political framework is being built around the terrible story of Maria and her friends who are caught up in a business which dehumanises them - as the job description candidly announces. Everything hinges on the central experience of Moreno and her terrifying plane journey. Her performance is indeed outstanding: subtle, understated, passionate and quietly defiant when she quits her demeaning "straight" job: sweatshop work removing the thorns from roses intended for export to the US. Symbolism is certainly at work there.
Any scene showing drug mules running the scary gauntlet of customs will always remind me a little of Alan Parker's now thoroughly unfashionable Midnight Express, and Brad Davis trying to keep his cool as he walks through the Turkish airport, with the soundtrack of an internal heartbeat cranked up almost deafeningly high. That film is now deprecated for unsubtlety and for demonising foreigners, but it certainly packed a punch, and in showing a white American male actually engaged in drug-running, Midnight Express was, in its way, tactlessly direct about the culpable involvement of the developed world's white-collar middle classes in the grisly trade.
Maria Full of Grace is doing something different, but no less gruesome. The stomach-turning centre of the movie comes when she is aboard the plane, trying not to let anyone see how giddy and nauseous and terrified she is. Slowly, Maria starts recognising people: her friends, other mules. In a fraught whisper, one older hand tells her that, given the finite resources of US customs, the barons send their mules over in a herd, to maximise the chances of getting most of the merchandise through. They sit there in rows, cowed by their awful gamble, like congregants in a godless church - and here perhaps is where anti-clerical satire plays its part. Almost all of them feel ill; Maria staggers to the lavatory where an unthinkable thing happens with her intestinal payload, and confronting officials in New York brings a fresh nightmare, with an unexpected twist.
But what exactly are we supposed to conclude from all this? Steven Soderbergh's 2001 movie Traffic offered a wider context, as it followed a grand narrative pipeline beginning in the Mexican barrio, moving across the Rio Grande, and on to the rich, spoilt end-users in the United States, one of whom, with a neat clinching irony, turned out to be the troubled daughter of a government official charged with getting tough on narcotics. Maria Full of Grace, on the other hand, is pretty incurious about Maria's position in the drug trade's macro-economics. We are invited to pity her poverty and admire her passion, her stoicism and her courageous attempts to behave morally in a situation when no one could be blamed for wanting simply to save their own skin. Moreno's excellent and credible performance makes all of this easy, yet it is adrift in a film which raises larger questions about the nature of drug trafficking which it is unable or unwilling to answer. It is also unconvincing and naive in its portrayal of Maria's paymasters, who appear unmoved and even weirdly forgiving when two of their employees abscond with over a hundred of their precious drug sachets.
Is the "Bogotá Connection" simply the overtly illegal side of a globalised system of exploitation? Thornless flowers or heroin - is there a difference? Marston's movie leaves you with an unsatisfying feeling that the comparison has been coyly hinted at, but left unexplored. By contrast, Ken Loach's underrated Bread and Roses showed oppressed Latino women workers in Los Angeles, cleaning offices for low pay, until a union organiser takes up their cause. That was arguably too prescriptive and pedagogic with insufficient human interest. Yet it tackled the how and why of human suffering and ventured a glimpse of how things could be made better. Maria Full of Grace is uninterested in these challenges. Moreno's performance deserved a film with larger perspectives.

abscond- zbiegać, uchodzić, uciekać
adrift- dryfujący, zdany na łaskę fal
barrio- dzielnica
candidly- szczerze
clinch- kończyć, finalizować; zaciskać
coyly- skromnie, nieśmiało
crank up- podkręcić głośność, zgłośnić
credible- wiarygodny
culpable- winny (czegoś); karygodny
defiant- nieposłuszny, buntowniczy
demeaning- poniżenie
excoriate- ostro krytykować; odzierać ze skóry
feckless- nieodpowiedzialny; nieporadny
framework- zarys, zakres, ramy
fraught- spięty
get tough on- brać się ostro za (coś / kogoś)
giddy- mający zawroty głowy
gruesome- okropny, straszny, makabryczny
hinge on- zależeć od
indict- oskarżać
intestinal- jelitowy
keep one’s cool- zachować spokój
payload- ładunek, ciężar ładunku
punch- uderzenie
run the gauntlet- być narażonym na krytykę, zniewagi
stand up to- przeciwstawiać się
stirring- wzruszający, ekscytujący
tacitly- milcząco
tackle- rozprawiać się, przystępować do (czegoś)
understated- umniejszony, niedopowiedziany
venture- ryzykować, próbować, ośmielać się

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