Michael, myself and some friends decided to spend New Year’s Eve attending the Grand Cinema’s Weird Elephant showing of the film The Eyes of my Mother. I had heard whispers about this film before we settled in to watch it and I had a vague understanding of the premise (female serial killer?) but I was not prepared for what I was about to watch.
First off, just on technical merits alone, this film stands out. The cinematography is breath-taking which is incredible when you consider the entire film is in black and white. There are times when a simple shot of meat packaged in plastic can cause more horror than then a graphic dismemberment scene can (of which there are none on camera; the gore in this film is almost always implied with one or two exceptions). The sound is amplified in exactly the right places to make you cringe and recoil. Though there one or two moments of true, horrific, gore I would venture to say some of the most intense moments of the film happen when we’re viewing something mundane, a person eating, but listening to something totally and completely unsettling; the sound of a person chewing food becomes a true horror show as it manages to convey deep desperation, fear, and the complete loss of humanity (if you hate the way chewing sounds, maybe cover your ears? Cause there’s a lot of that multiplied by infinity). Sometimes we have the opposite; a disturbing image of a woman waking up after a DIY surgery paired with an annoying but mundane sound (crying baby). This scene was so powerful, I almost cried myself.
When it comes to the plot itself, I don’t want to give too much away; the horror of it really creeps up on you and the less you know about the plot the better. But I will say I was so happy about some key choices on the part of the filmmakers: they didn’t depict graphic sexual violence against any woman in the film (which would have been so easy when women make up 90% of the cast), they didn’t comment on anyone’s mental health (again so, so easy to do in slashers/thrillers) and the filmmakers rejected the trope of how women are “supposed” to react to trauma in lieu of something much more complex. Oftentimes when there is a trauma depicted in pop culture, we are shown a very two-dimensional response from our characters; angry, stoic, emotionally frail, tearful and that is their only characterization (esspecially for women). Though these are typical responses to trauma (for the record, there is no “normal response”; everyone reacts differently), rarely are we allow to see a response to trauma that is multifaceted and evolves over time. The Eyes of my Mother has incredible depth in this respect.
We see our protagonist/antagonist, Francisca, as a child witnesses the murder of her mother and her father’s creative interpretation of revenge. The family life Francisca has grown up with is brutally changed forever literally overnight. We can already see young Francisca is somewhat odd and extremely isolated. Her need for human connection and a morbid sense of curiosity is thrust upon her mother’s killer. She creates her own grotesque version of family and that seems to work until Francisca’s father dies decades later. For the rest of the film, Francisca has to come to terms with her grief and loneliness and God almighty does she do it in the most fucked up ways imaginable. Watching her try to navigate an adult life and find human connection is both terrifying and heartbreaking; she’s never malicious to anyone (which almost makes the character more alarming for me), she just has a completely warped sense of bonding.
If you’re a parent and have often worried about your child being kidnapped, I will warn you that some aspects of this film will hit you hard. That’s part of the horror of this movie; while Francisca does some extreme things to her fellow humans, nothing seems too over-the- top or unrealistic. I could easily believe this kind of thing could happen and it’s presented in such a realistic way that I was sucked right in. This was truly a great film to close out 2016 with.