Wild Young Minds: Frida: the fervent story of an extremely talented and eccentric woman

Friday, September 27, 2013

Frida: the fervent story of an extremely talented and eccentric woman

A couple of years ago a random guy came up to me, while I was peacefully doing some shopping, and praised my eyebrows. He even said I looked exactly like Frida Kahlo. This I didn't see as a compliment, not at all actually, since Frida Kahlo's eyebrows are definitely thick, but you almost can't refer to them as plural - she only has one eyebrow. Back then that was pretty much all I knew about Frida Kahlo, apart from the fact that she was a Mexican painter. Nowadays I think I would've taken the comparison a lot better, because I've learned so much more about the wonderful artist. She didn't only create the most surrealistic and amazing paintings, she also was a strong woman. A feminist, a passionate lover and an overpowering lady.

Frida is a 2002 biopic starring Salma Hayek, who won an Academy Award for the film, as Frida Kahlo. It tells the life story of the painter, from the terrible accident which changed her life until her death in 1954. I shall tell you the most important events in her life in a nutshell. At the age of 18, Frida suffers a horrible accident in a bus. The results of the crash on her body are a nightmare. Her back is bruised, broken and battered. It looks as if she won't be able to walk and she lies in her bed for hours, days and months. To kill time, she finds comfort in painting. Her frustrations of not being able to walk and not being able to live, are translated on canvas. Frida turns out to be an extremely talented painter, also able to paint herself, because ''I'm so often alone, because I am the person I know best'' as she says herself.

Famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina) becomes her guider and lover. Even though he's a fat and not quite handsome older man (as simple as that) Frida is head over heels in love and they marry in a very short time. The wedding is typically Mexican, the party is wild and fiery like guacamole. Their relationship is passionate but quite dysfunctional and they have more ups-and-downs than a trampoline. They both cheat on each other constantly, resulting in huge fights.

When Diego is asked to paint a giant art work at the Rockefeller Center, the two fly to New York. This turns out to be a disappointment for Frida. She has no inspiration, feels left alone and to make it all worse, she suffers a miscarriage and her mother dies. Diego has no luck either, the American government doesn't approve of his communist view (which is also shown in the painting he makes), so they fly back to Mexico. Their relationship is almost over and Diego cheats on Frida with her sister (!). Frida began to drank a lot. “I drank to drown my sorrows, but the damned things learned how to swim.” They meet again when Diego asks Frida to house Leon Trotsky, a Russian Marxist revolutionary who has caused a lot of controversy. Frida begins an affair with the old Trotsky, which abruptly ends when his wife finds out. Frida and Diego remarry eventually and the film ends when Frida dies. May sound like I'm giving away the ending, but that's just the life story of Frida. No surprise, we all know she died and it's no use making a mystery of this fact.

Frida intruiged me from beginning until end. Was it the story, the character, what happened to her? I don't know. It all inspired me, not in the literal way (can't paint sad enough) but definitely in a creative way. The believes Frida had, the overwhelming strength and persistence, the will to live and the will to love, which seemed even bigger. I've always believed that men like Diego, who constantly cheat, should be thrown out of women's lives. I always thought that if you had any dignity, you would leave a man like that. But Frida was the living proof of dignity and courage, yet she didn't leave Diego. Yes, for a bit when he had sex with her sister (imagine the cruelty!) but later on she took him back anyway. She did this because she loved him so utterly and strongly, despite all his flaws. Of course you have to take into account that she wasn't that sweet herself either - she cheated on Diego with women and with, among others, Trotsky. All we can say is that they had a complex relationship. They worshipped but despised each other.

Salma Hayek was the true incarnation of Frida. I do have to say I found Salma a bit too pretty for the part of Frida, who was definitely charming herself as well, but Salma's looks are really sublime. It's always hard having to play someone who has really existed. There are bound to be fans or family or critics who don't agree with the choice. This is also happening right now with the selection of  Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone. Agree or don't agree, that's the question. Anyway, I think Salma did an amazing job. She was convincing as a young and energetic Frida but also as an old and lonely Frida.

The visual effects of this film are very good. Every scene begins as one of her paintings, turning into a scene with living creatures. The way the paintings are shown to us, is magnificent.
All in all, Frida is a fresh biopic with great visual effects. It does become a bit long-winded at a certain moment, especially because it focuses on the relationship a lot, rather than on Frida as an artist. Salma Hayek is outstanding as Frida. You can really feel Frida was an inspiration for Salma because she didn't even play her, she turned into her. And that's an admirable job.

''Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?''

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