Seems like every time I try to catch up on some film reading, I run across a reference to The Headless Woman, a dramatic feature from Argentina’s Lucrecia Martel playing at NWFF next week. It’s emerging as one of the most talked about foreign films of the year.
I saw THW several months ago at SIFF, and remember it vividly. A middle-aged, bourgeois dentist (Maria Onetto) claims she hit a dog with her car while distracted by her cellphone. The film charts her gradual admission, over the course of several days, that she might actually have hit a child, and the efforts of the men in her life to cover up what happened. What makes the film noteworthy is its narrative subtlety. The story is told partly through the constrained facial expressions of the excellent Onetto, and partly through bits of key information revealed to the viewer in an almost offhand manner. You have to do some work to follow what’s going on.
Film Comment’s Amy Taubin writes of the film’s “disturbing intimacy” in its “description of a condition of consciousness.” The New York Times’s Stephen Holden calls it a “brilliant, maddeningly enigmatic puzzle of a movie,” and compares it to Antonioni’s L’Avventura. In the same vein, New York’s David Edelstein says it is “so arty, enervated, and allegorical it might have been made by a European in the early sixties.” (In case you can’t tell, he liked it.) My favorite film blogger, Seattle’s own Jim Emerson, likens THW to Repulsion, but in reverse.
See for yourself, then read the interview with Martel on Film Comment’s website.