La Teta Asustada

Every now and then, a film introduces you to a character that remains with you for a considerable time. 2010 had a.o. the dreaming boy in Mr. Nobody and La Teta Asustada‘s Fausta, a young woman with a potato in her vagina. Yes, you read that correctly and yes, I’ll return to this unconventional plot element later, but first a question.

What are the ingredients of breast milk? According to an Argentinian tale, a suckling baby will get more than just milk, if a mother’s worried, the worries will pass onto the baby as well. And that is why the film’s title translates as “the frightened tit”, a title that could’ve limited the film’s release in a couple of countries (the US and Hungary, probably) and thus it was replaced by The Milk of Sorrow, a rather poetic title.

Fausta’s mother was raped and her subsequent unease is something young Fausta sucked in. To the extent where Fausta, now a young woman, has put a potato in her vagina, to scare off possible bad men. You don’t have to be a genius to work out that – unless you believe the folk’s tale – it is not the healthiest solution. The potato grows inside her body and frequently causes Fausta a lot of pain.

Things don’t get much better when Fausta’s mother dies and Fausta has to find a job. She takes up the position of a maid for an eccentric lady who just can’t (or rather won’t) remember her name. When Mrs. Aida has trouble with her necklace, the pearls fall on the floor and Fausta is promised a pearl for every song she sings. At first, Fausta refuses, but the need for money forces her to become more open. She even has to open the door for a man, the gardener, who to anyone else but Fausta seems like a very gentle man. But this is Fausta, who, when walking in open air with another girl, almost crawls behind her friend when passing a member of the male species.

Fausta’s rather unusual anti-rape mechanism is shown quite tastefully. You only hear about in a dialogue between a doctor and Fausta’s uncle. Fausta sits quietly in the background as if the person they’re talking about was someone else. A bit more visual is the occasional scene where we see Fausta’s feet when she’s sitting on a bed. All of a sudden, a tiny root drops on the floor. The rest is left to the viewer’s imagination – though DV recommends not to think about it too much.

The film is sober, but not boring – unlike what some reviewers seem to think. We’re witnessing a frightened young woman who’s forced to become more social. She’s no longer a young girl who could hide in her safe home. What’s stronger, the folk’s tale or living in the real world? La Teta Asustada is a psychological process.
The film isn’t just about Fausta but also mentions Fausta’s family and the wedding receptions they host (this probably contradicting Fausta’s mourning). I’m not sure this needed as much screen time as it received, the film seems to want to visualize the contrast between life and death a bit too much (there’s even a shot of a blooming potato plant, as a contradiction to the potato inside Fausta’s body that causes decay and possibly even her death if Fausta doesn’t want to have it removed), but overall, The Milk of Sorrow is a really good film.

And because people seem to remember the end of a review better than what’s been written earlier and because she deserves it, Fausta was played by Magaly Solier.



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