Wide Angle: Frida

Wide Angle is our  books and films segment at continnect.

Today on Wide Angle we look at the movie Frida, a biopic on the personal and professional life of the famous Mexican surrealist ar¬tist Frida Kahlo.

The Story

The movie introduces the viewer to the anarchic and unconventional spirit of Frida Kahlo. She dresses up in a man’s flannel suit at her sister’s wedding portrait. She ‘is intoxicated by art, sex and left-wing politics’. Even for her own wedding she forgoes the traditional white wedding gown for a green dress. Some minutes into the movie and we witness the near fatal bus accident which happens to an 18-year-old Frida. Her back and pelvis are greatly injured. It’s while being on bed rest that Frida begins to paint some of the many of self-portraits, she is famously known for. Frida uses her art to overcome the pain she underwent, like her accident and her miscarriages.
The center of this movie is Frida’s tumultuous relationship with the great muralist Diego Rivera, whom she married, divorced and married again. In the movie Diego promises Frida loyalty but not fidelity. Both have series of lovers. There are glimpses of political scenario, communist propaganda, influences of the Mexican Revolution. However, the movie has been criticized for ‘great lapses in politics and history’. ‘Although many historical figures are trotted out in the movie, in a kind of visual name-dropping, they are little more than well-dressed pieces of furniture’.

Despite the criticism, the movie gives an insight into the Frida Kahlo’s character. She represents strength and resilience in the face of difficult times. She is able to transcend her pain into art. It was the bus accident that turns her towards painting, first on her medical corset and then on the canvas. Another great feature of the movie is the ease with which the director Julie Taymor uses magic realism. She blurs the boundaries between reality and fantasy. ‘The bus accident is followed by an eerie animated sequence whose iconography of skeletons and broken body parts comes from Kahlo’s painting and from the Mexican folk art that fascinated her.’ Taymor also very deftly incorporates the vivid self-portraits of Frida into the movie.

Here’s the trailer of the movie

About the Film

Frida, the movie is based on the biography by Hayden Herrera, first published in 1983. Released in 2002, the movie stars Salma Hayek who was nominated for the Academy for her portrayal of the artist Frida Kahlo. Alfred Molina plays the role of Diego Rivera. It won two Academy Awards, for Best Makeup and Best Original Score.

The Director

Frida was directed by Julie Taymor. She was the creative force behind the Broadway hit musical The Lion King. She has directed several other movies like Titus (1999) and Across the Universe (2007). Along with being a director Taymor is an author, playwright and a designer.

Frida Kahlo: The Artist

Frida Kahlo was born in 1907, in the outskirts of Mexico City, to a German Jewish father and a devout Roman Catholic Spanish mother. Kahlo once said, “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best”. Though called a surrealist, Frida rejected this label and instead preferred to call herself a realist. Frida created approximately 200 paintings, drawings and sketches. Of her paintings, 55 are self-portraits which often incorporate symbolic portrayals of physical and psychological wounds’. Her work combines Christian and Jewish themes and also has influences of classical religious Mexican tradition. During her lifetime, Frida had only one solo exhibition in 1953, just a year before her death. More on Frida the artist here.

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