The Holy Girl, 2004

In the film’s understatedly realized catalytic encounter, an adolescent named Amalia (Maria Alch√©) stands in front of a musical instrument shop window in order to watch a musician perform on a theremin, as an inscrutable physician named Dr. Jeno (Carlos Belloso), visiting from out of town for a medical convention, casually places his hands in his pockets, stands directly (and uncomfortably close) behind the oblivious girl, and begins to repeatedly brush up against her before furtively walking away when she turns around to face the molester. Continuing in the similar vein of the filmmaker’s debut film La Cienaga in the dedramatized and surreal, but intrinsically disturbing mundane observations of everyday life, The Holy Girl is a darkly humorous and seductively elliptical, but maddeningly organic dysfunctional tale of awakening, violation, and devotion. Although Martel clearly has an eye for natural composition and admirably seeks to redefine the bounds of traditional storytelling, the resulting narrative is unfocused and meandering, obscuring intriguing ideas and intelligent moral arguments in a mire of superficially constructed, tangential episodes. It is interesting to note that while the title itself is contextually ambiguous with respect to Amalia’s religion classes (except perhaps for vague notions about what a calling truly is), the allusion is perhaps more thematically relevant within the context of the idea of virgin birth, a distancing theme that is reinforced with the repeated image of the theremin: an instrument that is not touched, but is played (and manipulated) by disturbing the air molecules in its periphery.

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