"The Milk of Sorrow": A Journey from Fear to Freedom By Sergi Sánchez

in 59th Berlinale

by Sergi Sanchez

What is “cinéma-verité” exactly? According to Jean Rouch, we should better name it “cinéma-sincerité” (a cinema which is honest, instead of a cinema which is true). A director’s subjective and genuine look at any (un)known reality is fairer. I would say that Jean Rouch would have adored The Milk of Sorrow, and not just because of its ethnographic touch, almost pedagogical, but mostly due to Claudia Llosa’s frankness in confronting the challenge of exploring the Andean culture with a fresh look, almost the same as audiences will share when discovering it.

Fausta (magnificently played by Magaly Solier) suffers from the “milk of sorrow” syndrome, a disease that only affects those who have been breastfed by women who were raped during the violent control of Sendero Luminoso terrorists. This is not the only symbolic part of the film, full of metaphors. A powerful example is the scene where the main character introduces a potato into her vagina, which is simply a sign of an open wound, shouting to be healed and not accepting to be hidden. The mother’s mother, waiting to be decently buried, is the same kind of symbol, the kind which highlights an imminent and needed transformation. Fausta’s initiation journey aims to be the balm for the soul. The power of music and the encounter with the other Peru (the bourgeois one, the one which wears pearl necklaces) are the fundamental factors for understanding the way that Fausta decides to heal her wounds.

Claudia Llosa observes her protagonist’s face as a blank sheet of paper which is going to be slowly covered, word by word. She firmly grabs the land but her hands are up to the sky: she allegorically climbs the ladder that separates the poor from the wealthy without idealizing indigenous’ purity.