Original Title: La Teta Asustada
Country: Peru
Director: Claudia Llosa
Release: 2009
Genre: Drama
Language: Spanish, Quechua

IMDb | Rotten Tomatoes

Fausta’s family believe she has a disease called milk of sorrow, making her extremely averse to men outside her close family, but when her mother dies she has to face the world outside her comfort zone.

La Teta Asustada Disease

La teta asustada translates to the frightened teat, however, it became milk of sorrow in the English version.

The Milk of Sorrow

Director Claudia Llosa said in an interview to the BBC that milk of sorrow is understood as a psychological disease similar to depression present in the imaginary of the quechuas people from the Andes.

According to this belief, a woman who was raped would transmit the disease to her child through the milk during breastfeeding, thus the name “milk of sorrow”.

This belief had ground to spread during the war between the Peruvian Government and Sendero Luminoso, a period when a lot of rapes happened, being committed by members of both sides of the conflict.

La Teta Asustada Film

Another Claudia Llosa film with Magaly Solier as the star, I probably said this would come someday when I reviewed Madeinusa (2006). In this movie, Magaly plays Fausta, a young woman with an irrational fear of men and being raped.

Fausta’s mother is an old woman and even in her deathbed, she sings about rape and the death of Fausta’s father in their language, Quechua. She raised Fausta with stories of the civil war between the Peruvian Government and Sendero Luminoso, a Maoist Guerrilla Group.

The old lady dies after her song, but the family doesn’t have money to take her to the city to bury her.

Fausta’s Mother, Perpetua (Bárbara Lazón)

The fear of rape caused by these stories makes Fausta put a potato inside her vagina, which eventually causes health issues, but she refuses to let the doctor remove it regardless.

The lack of money for her mother’s burial makes Fausta accept a job as a maid in the house of a pianist in creative decadence. The pianist is called Aida (Susi Sánchez) and recently she’s unable to compose new works for an upcoming presentation.

In this very dark and depressing place, Fausta has to open the gate for the gardener, Noé (Efraín Solís), every day, forcing her to face her fear of men. Fausta and Noé speak Quechua, causing an identification between them and helping her overcome little by little her phobia.

While working in the house, Fausta sings little songs she makes it up. Her employer, in the creative crisis, notices a particular song and asks for the girl to sing it to her so she can write it to her presentation.

Fausta (Magaly Solier) e Aida (Susi Sánchez)

After using Fausta’s song, she gets rid of her in the middle of the night, afraid that Fausta might reveal that she is actually the author of the song.

The movie portrays the results of the trauma caused by the internal conflict in the region in the eighties and early nineties. The appearance of the movie is almost colorless, sad, oppressive, lifeless, translating well the traumatized imaginary of the people.

Fausta is the protagonist, but it seems like she is also, to some extent, a representation of scar left by the systematic rape during these awful times. She is not from the generation that suffered directly from this violence, but still affected by it.

Uncle Lúcido (Marino Ballón) and Fausta (Magaly Solier)

Fausta’s Uncle Lúcido (Marino Ballón) and the family organize weddings for a living, and their parties really annoyed me throughout the movie. We can see that it’s a low budget wedding, fitting their very poor region, so it is very nicely done, but I think it dragged for too much time.

In a way, it is a good way of showing their local culture, music, dances, and traditions. It is also a complete opposite of the rich mansion in which Fausta works in and the posh Aida’s recital.

Another clear distinction between these two worlds in the same city is ethnicity. Aida, the rich woman, is a white woman of European heritage, while all the common folk has indigenous and/or African characteristics.

Wedding photo

The songs are very depressive as well as the rest of the movie, the main song being Sirena (meaning Mermaid), the song Fausta sang and Aida transformed into her presentation.

Selma Mutal is the composer behind Sirena’s melody and Claudia Llosa herself is the writer of the lyrics. Llosa is actually the writer of most lyrics of the film, while Magaly Solier is the performer and composer in a good part of them. (Source)

The cinematography is quite good and interesting. Is not as breathtaking as some other titles I’ve reviewed but is very competent without a doubt.

The movie, in general, is good and brings an important symbology, being the representation of the overcoming of historical trauma. An important aspect to bring everything I mentioned to life, is the actor’s performance, especially, but not exclusively Magaly Solier.

Fausta seeing the see for the first time

The major problem I had with the movie is the extreme low pace. I like low paced movies, but I think this one was a little too much for me, the weddings being the perfect example of this lack of rhythm.

I think is more a matter of taste, I liked Madeinusa more, even though it’s a less awarded and less praised movie than Milk of Sorrow.

I also had a problem with expectations. I hear about this movie since college, always in a good light, so when I finished watching it I thought “that’s it?!”. I was a little bit underwhelmed, so for me, it’s 6 Moons.

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