The Animal’s Wife (Victor Gaviria) Review

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By Sandra M. Ríos (@sandritamrios)

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Around eight years took Victor Gaviria to develop his new feature film. Since “Sumas y Restas” released in 2005 we hadn’t watched anything from this Colombian director whose complete filmography has been in most important film festivals.

After premiere The Animal’s Wife in Toronto, Gaviria is ready to release his last movie in Colombian theaters next 9th March. Before of that, it will be also broadcasted a documentary (Searching for the Animal) about the filming and story on TV (and once a week during the rest of this month).

The Animal’s Wife tells the real story of Amparo, a woman who during more of 5 years lived with a man who kidnapped, raped and took as his woman. He subjugated  her without his and her family, her friends and neighbors helped her for real. The real name of this woman is Margarita. During that time, she had to survive to the “animal”, as this dark person was known.

All Gaviria’s filmography is full of violent city stories. He represents in his country a genre itself, the one about social and marginal issues. So, he remains faithful to this feature and even he does with more force in his latest production. This an extreme movie; or you like or you hate it definitely. It is a very hard story, very difficult to watch and resist it that beats strong if you are a woman. It is annoying, awkward, heavy, devastating and humiliating. It seems as every single scene was contemplated systematically to transfer to audience a heavy load to carry as minutes go by.

Other Gaviria’s films showed social stories that, in certain way, had a distance with audience. The Animal’s Wife, on the contrary, involves it directly. Audience is questioned every moment if it is a passive guilty just for watching that level of violence or if it is vindicated that absurd violence in our society. Another thing that annoys audience is to recognize how modern this story is when the same is based on a true story happened at the end of 70’s. But even worse, some people could identify with those characters who tried to ignore it. Domestic violence is something that happens everyday and all social classes.

We can’t hide the extreme violence of this movie, because Gaviria is direct and clear with its, showing the evil on Earth, a pathological condition. However, all this rawness has received a right approach by Colombian director. The Animal’s Wife is overwhelming but not explicit specially to the time to show sex and abuse scenes, for instance. Movie always takes precautions do not cross grotesque lines.

The Animal’s Wife is as great as painful drama that delivers a truth that blocks us and leaves us speechless. It is also the most clean movie technically of this filmmaker and his best work directing non-proffesional actors, another of his signature features. Victor Gaviria trains himself to his non-proffesional actors and gets incredible natural and realistic performances always. Amparo is played Natalia Polo and The Animal is played Tito Alexánder Gómez. She with a heartbreaking performance and Gómez with a terrifying one.

The documentary (Searching for The Animal)

The Animal’s Wife is his most risky film ever,  because even though he decided to make a fiction story, reality outdoes fiction, so, some people can think Gaviria has exaggerated it and wants to impact moviegoers with surplus of violence. The documentary serves, precisely, to know the real character behind of this and note that her testimony was recreated with fidelity. “Searching for The Animal” (Buscando al Animal) serves to know this one and other women cases of abuse and see how people around the victim try to deny the violence. Even, the documentary goes beyond when shows aggressors and how they justify their actions. Documentary feature film has been directed by Daniela Goggel.

Both productions invites us to a mature reflection about the sick society we are, how mental illness we are, how the domestic violence and gender-based violence are intact inside families and how through years these ones have just transformed.

The Animal’s Wife has been selected in the official Iberoamerican Competition at Guadalajara International Film Festival. After that, it will be at The Colombian Film Festival in New York and Chicago.

Cast & Crew

  • Director: Victor Gaviria
  • Screenplay: Victor Gaviria
  • Running Time: 120 minutes
  • Genre: Drama
  • Casting: Natalia Polo, Tito Alexánder Gómez, Michelle Madrigal, Dulce M. Jiménez, Karen L. Ricardo, Luisa F. Valderrama, Adriana López
  • Edition: Etienne Boussac
  • Cinematography: Rodrigo Lalinde
  • Music: Luis Fernando Franco
  • Art: Ricardo Duque
  • Producer: Daniel Goggel
  • Country: Colombia
  • Year: 2017

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