(Del Amor y Otros Demonios)
Director/Screenplay – Hilda Hidalgo, Based on the Novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Producers – Hilda Hidalgo, Laura Imperiale, Clara Maria Ochoa & Laura Pacheco, Photography – Marcelo Camorino, Music – Fidel Gamboa, Animation – Martestudio (Digital Supervisor – Oliver Zuniga), Production Design – Ana Piñeres. Production Company – Alicia Films/CMO Producciones/Fideicomiso Del Amor y Otros Demonios/RCN CINE – E-NNOVVA/DHL/Programa Ibermedia/Universidad Veritas/Cinergia/Fondo Para el Desarrollo Cinematografico – Colombia/Fundacion del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano.
Eliza Triana (Sierva Maria), Pablo Derqui (Father Cayetano), Jordi Dauder (Bishop Obispo), Joaquin Climent (Marquis de Casualduero), Margarita Rosa de Francisco (Marquesa), Martha Leal (Sister Agueda), Alina Lozano (Abbess Josefa Miranda), Carlotta Llano (Martina), Linette Hernandez (Caridad), Humberto Dorado (Viceroy)
The Spanish New World during the 18th Century. Sierva Maria, the teenage daughter of the Marquis de Casualduero, is bitten in the marketplace by a rabid dog. This comes to the attention of Bishop Obispo who is certain that demonic possession is transferred by rabid dog bite. He persuades the Marquis to lock Sierva Maria up in the convent of Santa Clara for her own protection. He then assigns the young novice Father Cayetano to oversee her deliverance. Father Cayetano is horrified to find that Sierva has been cuffed up in a cell. As he frees and tends her, Cayetano comes to believe that she is not possessed and her behaviour is no more than due to the native beliefs that she grew up amongst. However, this places him at odds with the bishop who is determined to make a case for possession.
Colombian born author Gabriel Garcia Marquez is considered one of the great writers of the 20th Century. Marquez has been lumped together with other Latin American authors like such as Jorge Luis Borges, Isabel Allende and Laura Esquivel under the label of Magical Realism – a genre that involves highly detailed description of usually period surroundings naturalistically woven in with fantastical elements. Marquez is most famous for novels such as One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) and Love in the Times of Cholera (1985). He has delivered several screenplays and there have been a surprising number of films based on his works, although all of these are Spanish language productions and the only moderately well known is Mike Newell’s adaptation of Love in the Times of Cholera (2007).
This adaptation of Marquez’s lesser known Of Love and Other Demons (1994) comes from Costa Rican born director Hilda Hidalgo. If Of Love and Other Demons is slight on actual fantastical elements – no more than a series of shared dreams between the two lovers – Hidalgo fully embraces the tone of Magical Realism visually. She gets right all the lush eroticism and earthy sensuality. It is something that she employs perfectly naturally here in a way that most Western-made ventures into Magical Realism – the likes of The House of the Spirits (1993), Simply Irresistible (1999), Chocolat (2000), The Mistress of Spices (2005) – struggle to find.
Most of the film is constricted to the confines of an austere jail cell yet Hilda Hidalgo manages to find a constant mystery and sensuality within its confines. She suggests an intense attraction to the love story between the two characters even though its fulfilment is no more than a hand brushing across a bare shoulder. (Interestingly, in comparison to an American film, the story seems to happily censure and celebrate a relationship between a thirty-six year-old man and a thirteen year-old girl without any comment, while you can guarantee that no US studio would ever consider touching the property without bumping the age of the girl up beyond legal consent).
Adding considerably to the ripeness of the romance here is the bewitching presence of Eliza Triana and in particular the love affair that the film seems to conduct with her gorgeously luxuriant flow of long coppery red hair. Indeed, look at the shots of the festival appearances by Triana without the hair extensions and she almost seems to disappear into a waifishness, so much does the hair seem to create her presence here.
Of Love and Other Demons becomes its most interesting when it gets to the topic of demonic possession. Unlike most film treatments of diabolic possession, it does not regard the possession as real but as something that exists in the minds of a dogmatic and superstitious church that finds the Devil under every rock and whose greatest ally is people’s ignorance. Where most films follow The Exorcist (1973) and its unquestioning acceptance of Catholic cant or works of the modern era like The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) that buy into an evangelical Christian line, it is nice to see Of Love and Other Demons joining a handful of other films – The Devils (1971), Requiem (2006), The Last Exorcism (2010) and the amazing Beyond the Hills (2012) – that regard the matter with a scrupulously sceptical mind that is more willing to entertain explanations from psychology and question the motives of the believers. (For a more detailed overview see my essay Possession Films).
Of these films, Of Love and Other Demons is the only one to take the equivalent of the relationship between Jason Miller and Linda Blair in The Exorcist and rather daringly make it into a romance. The ending of the film is heart-rendering, even if Hilda Hidalgo shies away from fully showing what happens to the two lovers – no more than seeing Eliza Triana having her hair forcibly cut. The results make for a film that is going to make no new converts for Catholicism.
(Nominee for Best Cinematography at this site’s Best of 2010 Awards).