CHILE: Gloria (2013)

What Gloria is Trying to Tell Us About the Past

By Abby Gee

Please watch the video before reading the crafter statement.  Thank you.

September 11, 1973 marks the beginning of the military dictatorship of Chile– a period of violence, terror, and censorship as a result of the military junta led by General Augusto Pinochet. The dictatorship resulted in the systemic suppression of political parties and the persecution of many, to an extent unprecedented in Chilean history (BBC). Anyone with leftist affiliations became a target of the cleansing process posed by the political force of the regime, and artists were no exception. Musicians, painters, sculptors, filmmakers, and more were a threat to the new government, as they were part of the “cáncer marxista” that had to be eliminated. The resistance of these artists, specifically filmmakers, is very much present today– in more forms than one.

Throughout the seventeen years of the Pinochet dictatorship, resistance was manifested through art, which is present in how the authoritarian social process was responded to. The Left conveyed this equivalent through a “variety of cinematic responses,” where several filmmakers resorted to seeking asylum to escape the repression of the regime and continue their art in exile (Cronovich). Chilean filmmakers resumed their cinematic careers in exile, which led to an evolutionary narrative of revolutionary cinema, coined as “exile cinema” by several scholarly accounts. These directors began to think of their work in relation to Chilean politics as an “intervention” to the authoritarian regime. “Exile cinema” survives today as it moves across geopolitical spaces. We see this in Chilean art as a whole, as well as through its films.

For those who remained in Chile, books and film seemed to suffer the most amount of censorship under the control of the regime. The source of media that suffered the least amount of this was television, which programmed shows that distracted people from the reality of the dictatorship. Oscar Contardo and Macarena Garcia, in their article “La ochentera: TV, pop y under en el Chile de los ochenta,” outline how Chileans immersed themselves in the glitz of television and music to fill their daily lives. Whether explicit or not, TV and other forms of entertainment allowed Chileans to immerse themselves in a false reality– a reality turned away from the terrors of Pinochet’s dictatorship.

Inexplicitly, the film Gloria (2013) embodies this. Unlike the traditional drama/romance film, the protagonist, Gloria, is a middle-aged divorcee who must learn to navigate a whirlwind relationship, highlighting themes of individualism and femininity. Throughout Gloria, Chilean national identity is most explicitly displayed through cultural practices and customs such as hospitality, family, music– all manifestations of Chilean national identity. However, in relation to the Pinochet dictatorship, its impact is present, yet not clearly expressed. Not once in the film is any aspect of the regime, or even general politics, mentioned. Yet, seeing that the majority of characters are of older age, they all in some way either lived through it or were affected by it.

The past and history of the regime are very much present in this way. The audience sees this first hand through the music, club scenes, and militaristic entities.

The title of the video essay, “What Gloria is Trying to Tell Us About the Past” suggests that the legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship lives on in the film, even though Gloria doesn’t directly tell us this. The video essay begins with an iconic scene from the movie, accompanied by plane noises from historical footage of the Pinochet regime. This is a small look into how the project as a whole conveys historical nostalgia. As it pans to historical footage and audio from the regime itself, this serves as a transition to how the past is reflected in Gloria. The first couple of scenes illustrate Gloria and her ex-Navy boyfriend Rodolfo using paintball guns, which alludes to militaristic elements from the Pinochet dictatorship. The historical footage at the beginning and end juxtaposes these scenes because of how the weapons are used- in one context they are used militarily and the ladder for amusement. The relationship between the history of Chile and its cinema becomes apparent here because we can assume that the past is present through the recreational activities on film.

However, the video essay’s depiction of Chilean nostalgia most alludes back to elements of distraction, which is presented through its audio. The folk waltz played in the background serves not only to accompany the visuals of Gloria but also to distract the viewer from the dialogue discussing the Pinochet regime. Titled Sweet & Slow, its purpose is similar to the glitzy TV shows viewed by many Chileans during the time of the dictatorship. It’s repetitive and draws attention to the makeup of the film rather than the political rhetoric. The only time that this music ceases is when I Feel Love by Donna Summers, one of the opening songs of Gloria, is played through the dancing scenes. People commonly listened and danced to music like this as a distraction from the regime, as shown by Gloria herself. Therefore, although Lelio himself disagrees, Chile’s past is very much present in Gloria. Here, I make the point that nostalgia is inevitable to world cinema as a whole and that national identity is illuminated by the past.

Through Gloria, a relationship between the history and cinema of Chile is apparent, which is always projected no matter the context of the film.

During the seventeen years of the Pinochet dictatorship, deep marks were left on Chilean society that are still very much present today. Filmmakers have a great preoccupation with the past, and Lelio’s Gloria is no exception. With the regime’s end in 1989, a new social and political identity began to emerge that affects Chilean cinema today. While it isn’t explicit or even intentional by Lelio, Gloria proves that nostalgia always impacts the director’s adaptation of national identity and how the audience perceives it. The impact from Chileans, both in exile or not, are constantly and statically expressing themselves. The Pinochet regime ended over thirty years ago, yet its ghost still looms over the head of Chilean cinema.

Works Cited

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