Gabriela Canudas in “Otilia Rauda” [2001 Mexico]

Dana Rotberg is definitely my favourite female director from the Latin Americas, even though I’ve seen only two of her three feature films to date – the other being the amazing “Ángel de Fuego”. Her minimal edits and theatrical-style of direction make us delve into the characters and listen to what they have to say more closely. Her films have simple themes, quite unlike the philosophical arguments of a Catherine Breillat, and yet equally passionate. I sometimes wonder whether it is her films that helped me understand women better.

Her 2001 film, “Otilia Rauda” aka “La Mujer del Pueblo”, based on a beautiful novel, is the sensual but sad story of Otilia, a young woman with the most enviable body in the village, but as if to compensate for her extraordinary physical beauty, nature had cursed her with a hideous scar disfiguring her face.  Her father, a wealthy landlord and mayor, unable to bear the frequent taunts by village-folk, gets her married to a local police officer.

But Otilia couldn’t love him, and to make matters worse, he passes on a sexually transmitted disease that renders her infertile. An angry Otilia – angry not only at her husband for lost fertility, but also her parents for forcing her into a marriage with a philanderer, refuses to have sexual congress with her husband henceforth, and seeks her revenge the only way she could – by having sexual liaisons with anyone she desired. She spends her time either at her farm, or the local brothel – Otilia, brimming with sensuality, needs a release, and the brothel made an ideal outlet. Until she meets a bandit-fugitive,  seriously wounded by the police. She hides him at her farm, nurses him back to health, and falls in love, fully aware her feelings are unlikely to be reciprocated. The tragic story leads to its logical conclusion, but not before it has given us an elegant insight into what it is to be Otilia.

Story apart, this film’s screenplay is beautifully written and crafted – and Gabriela Canudas, with her heart-felt performance and the most amazing feminine body, bewitches us throughout this gem of a film. Needless to say, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [NTSC]

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