Macachu, the Movie
Film and Music
Submitted By cmiller12
Two Mothers, One World
Chilean women’s societal roles have historically been impacted by traditional gender norms as well as a patriarchal cultural; just as most cultures have. However, throughout the years, Chilean women have proven themselves a force not to be reckoned with by involving themselves more and more into the political world. The film Machuca is a story of national violence and guilt seen through the innocent eyes of a boy named Gonzalo Infante and through him we meet two important women; Silvana and Maria Luisa Infante (IMdB, 2004). Machuca validates the moral crises of Allende’s fall with dramatic force, especially by the women of Chile. Through Gonzalo we witness the representation of Silvana and Maria Luisa, two women that come from very different backgrounds and political stand points who are trying to survive in Santiago. The theme of social structure and symbolism in the women is evident throughout the movie which is shown frequently through the actions of the right-winged and left-winged women; particularly in The March of Empty Pots and Pans and the symbolism of the roles each woman plays. Outside on the streets of Santiago, the audience often sees political slogans draping the city buildings and influential marches from both sides frequently disrupting the peace which both reflect the political ferment that’s in the air (Wood, 2004). The three friends, Gonzalo, Pedro and Silvana, help Silvana’s father take advantage of the political situation by selling flags at the competing demonstrations. Here we are introduced to the emotional, intense, and fervently political Silvana who immediately shows her communist side by joining in on C-C-Y, Chilean-Communist-Youth. The moment the crowd starts shouting, “Allende, the people are behind you! Jump if you’re not a mummy!”, Silvana celebrates the movement; until like the previous march where she expressed a hostile expression and behavior towards the rich, nationalist (Wood, 2004). Interested Gonzalo furthers his curiosity by asking what exactly a mummy is. Silvana’s rudely responds, “Rich and spoiled, like you.” (Wood, 2004). Her political stance is present with every conversation she has with Gonzalo due to the fact that she associates the wealthier community to the right-winged positions.
However after the rallies, the three friends are found by the river. There Silvana convinces Gonzalo to trade kisses for the rationed cans of condensed milk. The symbolism here is demonstrated through Silvana drinking the milk, keeping it in her mouth, and kissing Gonzalo; just as mothers provide milk for their young. The director is trying to demonstrate to his audience that Silvana becomes Gonzalo’s second mother by teaching him about the communist side of political spectrum and how happiness unfolds there. Although the nationalist provide materialist things, just as Gonzalo’s mother does for him and what the nationalists represent, the communistic principles would provide happiness to the majority of the nation with welfare, education and health care.
At a nationalist rally where the three children are once again selling flags and cigarettes, Gonzalo “two mothers” interact for the first time; The March of Empty Pots and Pans. At first Maria, a nationalist, defends the youthful Silvana from her actions due only to her age and “senselessness”. However, instead of Silvana just walking away, she rebukes by spitting back in her face. With great angry and offense, Maria takes no time to insult Silvana’s social class (Wood, 2004). This represents that nationalist movement’s defensive actions only when the communist kept corrupting the peace. Silvana’s hostile reaction to Maria’s concern goes to show how vigorous the communist were in this time period.
Gonzalo’s household is evidently headed for a regime change as unwelcome as the one brewing in the streets. It is clear that Andres Wood, the director, uses Gonzalo’s mother, Maria Luisa, as a metaphor to represent the nationalist movement. Throughout the film he uses the immoral actions of his mother to comment on the negative qualities of the movement. A particular example of this is demonstrated in the love affair between Maria Luisa and the rich business man that is frequently shown. Feeling guilty about her actions, Maria takes Gonzalo shopping for new tailored clothes. With a sour facial expression, his mother jokingly asks why he is so upset when he is not the one paying for the clothes. Her son’s only reply was, “neither are you,” (Wood, 2004). Gonzalo understands that the “disposable income” that the Infante family suddenly accumulated came from the wealthy business man his mother is seeing and finds it to be morally offensive.
Maria Luisa’s becomes a sexual icon due to her lavish spending and adulterous actions. In the Journal of Women’s History, Margret Power explains why this specific character demonstrates these dominate characteristics, “I argue that one reason many Chilean women supported the dictatorship is that it affirmed their own notions of womanhood and upheld their conservative ideas about motherhood and sexuality,” (Powers, 2004). With Maria being a nationalist from the start with the combination of the lack of attention she was getting from her husband, she needed to fulfill her duties as a conservative by demonstrating her sexuality through clothing and men. In addition to this, her materialistic buying confirmed her beliefs that she was still being a good mother to her son by providing him with the best. Powers further explains the right-winged women by saying, “These right-wing upper-class Chilean women comfortably identified with feminism because it legitimated their participation in a system they upheld and from which they received many benefits. Their interpretation of feminism justified their social status and served to affirm the existing class structure and gender hierarchy,” (Powers, 2004). This existing class structure that Powers talks about was demonstrated earlier when Maria insults Silvana’s social status at the protest marches that filled the Santiago streets. (Wood, 2004)
His mother actions make it impossible to not compare them to the immoral actions the nationalist did to the communist. When Gonzalo turns on the television at home, the news proclaims, “Everything is back to normal,” (Wood, 2004). In the newly awakened eyes on Gonzalo, he knows this can’t be true due to the fact his idol, Father McEnroe, was arrested and the impoverished inhabitants of the shantytowns were taken out of school. After seeing these headlines, he races his bike to Pedro’s town to inform him of the current situation only to find the vindictive arrival of the military. In the scene of the military takeover that captured the impoverished communist women, we are shown these immoral actions of the right-winged political party by the torturing of the pro-Allende people. In the Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, the two authors express more symbolism and reasoning behind the torturous actions towards the left-wing women. “The events that Gonzalo Infante witnessed on the other side of the river are embedded in this logic of the ‘state of exception’; a logic that implies the paradox of the suspension of legality, while at the same time that very suspension implies being a part of it. This is why the life of Silvana and many other nameless victims can be extinguished without committing a legal crime,” (Martin-Cabrera & Noemi Voionmaa, 2010).
In conclusion, Andres Woods uses the prominent female characters in the life of the main character, Gonzalo, to demonstrate the representation of left-wing and right-wing women in Santiago during a time of civil disturbance. Each action the women performed symbolized Wood’s attitude towards the nationalist movement and the communist movement. The film Machuca portrays the wretched living conditions of the people who travel from the country to the city for a better economic life compared to the extravagant living conditions of the right-wing, upper-class. In doing so, the audience discovers the raw, thrilling and complicated worlds of both political parties and families; one being sheltered with a crumbling family structure and the other of strong family bond but shameful living environment. The argument made in the Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies involving this film suggests, “…it is not just a story from the past as past, but rather an ‘uncomfortable memory’ that disturbs the present by bringing forward the perpetuation of class conflicts and the state of exception,” (Martin-Cabrera & Noemi Voionmaa, 2010). This motion picture taught its audience the reality of Chile’s struggles and the involvement of women in the political world.