Tonight I watched Peruvian film ‘La Teta Asustada’ which translates literally as ‘The Frightened Teat’. The film is called ‘The Milk of Sorrow’ in English. Here is my short review.
Peru, as far as I am aware at least, is not a country that is known for cinema. Machu Picchu, the Andes Mountains, Paddington Bear – yes. Films – not so much. I can’t think of another Peruvian film that I have seen.
This film, called ‘The Milk of Sorrow’ in English was made by Claudia Llosa, the niece of acclaimed writer and Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa. It opens with the mother of Fausta, the protagonist, on her death bed. She recounts, in her native Quechuan, the horrors of witnessing the death of her husband and being raped during an unnamed terrorist uprising.
This terrorism refers to the bloody internal conflict in Peru which lasted several years from 1980 involving the ‘Sendero Luminoso’ (Shining Path), the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement and the Peruvian Government.’ You can read about the conflict here.
The film centres around Fausta, a twenty something unmarried woman. She is thought to be inflicted with the mysterious ailment of ‘la teta asustada’ (The Milk of Sorrow) believed to be passed down from mothers who were sexually violated to their offspring via their breast milk. Throughout the film Fausta fights to overcome this inherited fear.
After another of her frequent nose bleeds a doctor is consulted. He quickly dismisses the old wive’s tale of the ‘milk of sorrow’ and upon examination of Fausta discovers that she has a potato inside her. It is believed to be have been inserted by her mother at a very young age as a safeguard against rape by the terrorist insurgents.
With no money to pay for a coffin, burial and funeral for her mother, Fausta sets out to work for a wealthy composer as a domestic maid. She develops a relationship with her employer by bonding over song and also develops a friendship with the house gardener. However, she is ultimately betrayed by her employer.
The class system of Peru (the stark difference between the haves and have-nots) is portrayed in the relationship between Fausta and her employer and is also shown through the contrast of the lower class barrio where Fausta and her relatives live and the opulence of the composer’s mansion.
The film gives a great insight into the culture and traditions of Peru. The traditions surrounding marriage and the marriage ceremony are explored and provides an interesting window into the psyche of the Peruvian working class. The presentation of the gritty reality of the hardships of life in Peru and how they are overcome by the human spirit is the most interesting aspects of the film for me.
Overall I enjoyed the film; the acting was good, the settings and cinematography were visually capturing and the plot kept me interested. I’d definitely reccommend it. The trailer for the film is embedded below.