REVIEW: Carmen – A story of love and rebellion
“In the deserts you were not saved from misfortune, fateful passions are everywhere. And there is no defense against fate.” With these words written in 1824, Alexander Pushkin closed one of his most notorious works, which would serve as the inspiration for one of the most important titles in the history of the Opera, as well as his flagship aria.
Benjamin Millepied’s debut work had undergone a difficult translation process with his Carmen (73%) and adaptation that sought to move away from its origin, but echo its motifs and themes in an endless “aesthetic death”.
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This is a completely free reimagining of the works, Carmen, a novel by Próspero Mérimée and Pushkin’s narrative poems, The Gypsies, a work in which the Mérimée himself will be inspired by his story. And although to a lesser extent, and even being “denied” by its director, the film also echoes one of the most important lemotifs in Georges Bizet’s opera of the same name, in a singular way with L’amour est un oiseau rebelle (Love it is a rebellious bird).
From the very first scene it is clear that the aim is to create an impressive visual and sound construction that, despite being difficult to combine with the hostile imaginary of the desert, manages to convey the intensity and drama of the story.
The images used in the first scene make use of dance as a narrative resource in an imposing and useful way to set the context from which the story starts, but at the same time they create a parallel fluidity threaded into the harsh environment of the main plot.
Pero It is also true that this is a double-edged sword throughout the film, because although at times the story is perfectly complemented by these images, at others it seems to tell a story disconnected from the journey of the protagonists. Without being completely free, the visual spectacle is shown at times outside the tempo of this story.
And it is that the characters in the story are crossed by death and tragedy, but they are also full of dreams and passions. Due to the above, these could be the only components that travel intact from Pushkin, Mérimée, Bizet and Millepied.
Melissa Barrera’s Carmen and Paul Mescal’s Aidan embody that fortuitous encounter with love in a most adverse scenario.
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In this new version, the story moves away from the archetypes of the original writings and places Carmen in the violent context of the border, with roots linked to the gypsy culture that will mark the rhythm —on stage— of the chronicle of a foretold tragedy.
On the other hand, Aidan, far from being the character of a jealous bullfighter, is portrayed as a man who deals with his own demons, with the few tools a war veteran has, while suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome that It “marks with blood” from early in history, like the most explicit symbology that Carmen carries on her head.
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Various factors come into play here, such as a —virtual — member of a paramilitary group trained to exterminate migrants who suddenly finds his life intertwined with that of a woman fleeing violence south of the border, who is going through mourning and heartbreaking uprooting for the same cause.
The work fails to successfully bring together all its elements in its exercise of aesthetic response that completely satisfies the reinterpretation of the original narrative, it is recognized that the clear intentions of updating the theme.
From this point of view, migration on the border between Mexico and the United States is a plus point in the story, since it addresses a relevant and socially sensitive issue that does have points that are tangibly linked to Carmen’s narrative pathos as an artistic work and its respective relevance in the real world, such as the migratory crisis and all the social manifestations that accompany it.
Carmen’s pathos stems from her constant search for freedom and self-determination. She is a woman who rebels against the norms and conventions of society, and refuses to be controlled by others. Her desire for independence from her leads her to face the restrictions of the world that saw her born and to challenge the expectations imposed on migrants, particularly as a woman.
Her yearning for her freedom drives her to find a romantic and passionate relationship, at the same time that it does not end up removing her from dangerous and turbulent situations.
The story seems to want to “blame” her gypsy soul for this —regardless of whether her direct link with her is clear or not—, as she is always observed by the gaze of a third party who disturbingly and repeatedly reminds her audience.
Another fundamental aspect of Carmen’s pathos is her search for love and emotional connection. Although she is a figure that can be read through the seduction of her dance, she is also vulnerable and is shown in search of authentic and genuine love – filial or romantic. However, her destiny seems to have an end in store for her that goes hand in hand with the violence seen since the beginning of her journey.
Carmen’s emotional ambivalence also contributes to her pathos. She is a character that oscillates between joy and sadness, passion and despair. Through her pathos, Carmen embodies the constant struggle between her desires, her dreams, and the conditioning reality of her life. But no longer marked by whims and carnal desires, as indicated by the literary tradition that bears its name, but from a fate dictated by the world and from which she seeks to escape.
But we cannot ignore the fact that much of the narrative It happens from a large number of exuberant choreographies, which in turn can be interpreted as a portal to a world other than the one in which the characters inhabit, one of reverie or fantasy where their problems do not exist and where it is possible to reach a “happy ending”.
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The story and enrich the theatrical experience with its colorful dance sequences that serve as an antithesis to the harshness of the desert.
And it is that, although the story is nourished by these works, they are also far from the Carmen that would exalt María Callas, where, as in traditional opera, music becomes a narrative element that reinforces themes and motives —passion and tragedy—develops its main characters by confronting them, and ideally should provide structural cohesion.
Thus, in this reimagining of Carmen, music becomes an expressive language that highlights the central themes of the story. Through the use of reprisals, recurring melodies and motifs are established associated with the characters, emotions, and fundamental ideas of the plot—the passions and tragedy.
These repetitions create a certain sense of unity and coherence, allowing the audience to identify and connect with the key thematic elements of the story, which at times is a narrative lifeline in a third act that seems to lose its way at times – although then it comes back with an excellent A musical number similar to Amor sin Barreras (94%).
Likewise, the reprises are used for the development of the protagonists, more specifically their romantic relationship, since what unites them is also what destroys them, regardless of whether they are only victims of their life experiences.
Through the repetition of musical themes and choreography, the emotional changes, motivations and internal conflicts of Carmen and Aidan can be highlighted, as a window into the growth or regression of the characters, providing the audience with a deeper vision. of their emotional and psychological journey.
The dramatic intensity and emotional resonance of these are also reinforced by this framework of dance and music, with musical passages at climactic moments or crucial turning points, creating greater tension, urgency or catharsis , in a constant pulse of passions.
However, the viewer will not escape the fact that all the overflowing aesthetics tend to blur the interpretative work of…