Saturday, June 25, 2011

LAFF 2011: BAD INTENTIONS

Cayetana de la Heros (Fatima Buntinx) in Bad Intentions.
Death to the bourgeoisie


Writer-director Rosario Garcia-Montero’s The Bad Intentions is a coming-of-age story which centers around a quirky-yet-morose nine-year-old girl, Cayetana de la Heros (Fatima Buntinx). Cayetana’s parents (Katerina D'Onofrio and Jean Paul Strauss) are divorced -- which, as she learns at her Catholic school, means they are going to hell. Cayetana is raised primarily by the servants (Liliana Alegría, Tania Ruiz, Melchor Gorrochátegui) at her Valium-popping mother’s bourgeois home in Lima, Peru. Whenever Cayetana does spend time with her mother, she devises new and interesting ways to play torturous mind games with her. And though Cayetana’s father seems too preoccupied with life -- especially attractive young women -- to pay her much mind, Cayetana idolizes him nonetheless.

As her surname suggests, Cayetana is obsessed with heroes. It seems most of Peru’s heroes are losers and Cayetana is specifically interested in their heroic deaths. Cayetana’s fascination with death, especially violent deaths during battle, lends her the morbid air of a Peruvian Wednesday Addams. Death’s allure becomes even more personal when Cayetana suddenly -- and quite irrationally -- concludes that she will die on the day that her pregnant mother gives birth. Cayetana is not very worried about dying, but she seems utterly frightened of being rendered invisible.

Of her entire family, Cayetana’s most sane and rewarding relationship is with her cousin, Jimena (Kani Hart). When Cayetana becomes too much for her mother to handle, she is sent to spend the summer at the beach with her cousin. When Jimena becomes mysteriously ill, Cayetana is snapped back into reality. Death is more than just a magic realism-tinged dream; death becomes real for Cayetana.

The Bad Intentions takes place in 1982 and the brutal guerrilla attacks of the Maoist group, the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), hover around the periphery of the narrative. The terrorists always seem to be lurking around the corner; as the violence creeps closer to Cayetana, her mind is catapulted into more frequent and fervent daydreams about Peru’s past war heroes.

Garcia-Montero’s film functions as an absurd allegory for bourgeois feelings of ambivalence towards an uncertain future. The invisible yet always-present threat of death has warped repercussions in the mind of a nine-year-old child; Cayetana is riddled with Catholic guilt, consciously for her parents’ unholy divorce and subconsciously for being a part of a bourgeois household that is quite similar to the colonialists that her favorite revolutionary heroes fought against.

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