I am easily drawn towards artistic films, but with ‘Frida‘, there was something equally mesmerizing in its poster of a unibrow woman who looked somewhat like Salma Hayek; and then there was a beautiful painting lurking behind in one of the stills.
It was more than enough.
‘Frida’ movie is based on the life of Mexican painter ‘Frida Kahlo‘, famous for her surrealists self portraits. I have seen her paintings before (watching movie), but they didn’t spoke to me much at that time. Infact I find them too surreal and somewhat brutal in terms of execution, but, after watching her life story and then reading about her in a lot of articles, I find every painting of her as a masterpiece in its own.
It seems like she is one of those artists whose paintings you can understand without first dwelling in their lives, and, their life’s pain and depth can only be understood by imbibing their paintings.
Let’s talk about movie Frida, and in the process explore a great artist life story.
‘Frida’, movie is adapted from the book ‘Frida – A Biography of Frida Kahlo‘, and directed by Julie Taymor. It stars Salma Hayek, who was nominated for academy award for portraying the character of Frida in this movie; and Alfred Molina as Diego Rivera, Frida’s husband. Geoffrey Rush, Mia Maestro, Ashley Judd and Antonio Banderas have also played pivotal role in the movie.
Story starts with an unapologetic young Frida who is close to her father and treats herself as his son than his daughter. She prefers wearing suit in a family portrait despite of her mother’s discomfort. She is rebellious, in love, and has a fiery personality, which she also gave a taste to famous artist Diego Rivera. Life was fast and running in full speed until one tragic trolley accident halt her speed and changing the direction of rest of her life. By the way this particular accident scene is filmed so beautifully and exotically that it is in itself a painting. It was astounding.
Coming back, she is bedridden and has only one thing to do to pass her time; that is, to paint the canvas gifted by her parents. She starts to paint and then there is no turning back. She paints her pain, her stillness in her bed, her agony, her hopes, everything. With her will power she resumes her legs and starts to walk, leaving her bed for good. First thing that she do, is to go to Diego Rivera once again, this time not to make fun of him, but to showcase her work. She asked for an honest opinion about her paintings and she did get one with a dumbfounded Diego seeing her marvelous work.
Frida and Diego both speaks and understands only one language – art; and this joins them in more ways than expected. They fall in love and get married, despite Frida knowing about his sordid married life and numerous affairs. They have a very honest relationship with Diego saying, he loves Frida, but he can never be faithful to her only. In return, Frida tells him, that she expects loyalty, if not fidelity.
She does deals with his infidelity without flinching twice, and also did some deeds of her on with her other partners of same-sex. At one time both of them have had sexual encounter with the same woman. But, throughout the film, you will notice that they are in love with other, despite of them sleeping with other men and women; what they long for is company of each other. There is a soul-mate connection somewhere which is never broken, till death.
Once Diego did break his promise towards Frida by sleeping with her sister. She didn’t took it well and break herself from his shadow, only to fall in depths of alcoholism and adultery.
They reunite as she succumb to her ill-health with her past injuries now refusing to go away with her sheer will power. She is again forced to bed ridden painful days, with only her husband and her canvas, by her side to amuse her. She dies after having her paintings solo exhibition in her motherland Mexico. Her last wish fulfilled.
Her paintings reflecting her life, from her new york visit to her differences with Diego, and most impacting of all, her miscarriages. Everything, changing her, and her paintings. If you look at her paintings now, you will see a female who is born to break free but still struggling to express herself trying to make sense of her reality in dream world.
Frida is a masterpiece just like its protagonist’s paintings. More so because of Salma Hayek’s never seen or felt before, kind of performance. Molina and Hayek shared something so beautiful in this movie that are etched as Diego and Kahlo, forever in my mind.
- In Search of Frida Kahlo(claudiamoss.wordpress.com)
- Revisiting Frida Kahlo’s Style and Cult of Personality(longreads.com)