What Are the Objects of Love?

in 13th Festival or European Cinema, Seville

by James B. Evans

What are the objects of love? Persons, places, spaces, identity? And what’s it like to be an estranged Columbian woman who is an economic migrant and finds herself living in a strange, European urban space – a space not yet psychically integrated as ‘place’ – where everywhere seems to be nowhere?

In The Objects of Love (Los Objetos Amorosos) Luz (Laura Rojas Godoy) is a struggling single mother who has left her 2 year old son with her family whilst she flees the dire situation in Columbia and tries to follow her European dream of financial fulfilment by moving to Rome. The dream sours as she encounters indifference and disinterest in her plight – indeed in her existence. Realising that she must accept her reduced social status, she suffers the indignities of being a uniformed cleaning lady. Luz also finds herself living in near-squalor in a shared accommodation for migrant workers, where strict rules apply and where everyone is there to work as exploited wage earners in various shadowy and grey economy jobs. No sooner has she arrived, than she naively puts her trust into a convincing hustler who offers to exchange all of her Columbian money to Euros for her – a hustler who never returns once she hands over her cash. Near-destitute, the camera follows her as she attempts to lift herself up in the Eternal City and by the resourceful use of a combination of directorial and cinematic choices – and obviouslylimited financial ones as well – the film is lent a social-realist air and oftentimes, a documentational tone which reflects the director’s earlier work in non-fiction films.

Luz eventually meets and falls under the spell of the decidedly masculine lesbian, Fran (Nicole Costa) who is a rebellious, free-spirited subversive. Fran lives by any means necessary and this often entails petty theft, running out on restaurant bills, and various deceptions. Fran is streetwise and emanates a wild energy and magnetism which Luz can’t help but admire. Fran soon takes Luz under her tutelage, and in time the close friendship becomes sexual as the two women become lovers. While this did appear a touch predicable at the the outset, the pacing of the film and the sensitivity with which the director and the two actresses handle theburgeoning affair and eventual lovemaking scenes was not in the least exploitative (a tricky matter for male directors) but believable within the context of the story as well as touching and somehow ‘natural’. Both actresses portray their contrasting characters in a very convincing manner as their symbiotic relationship unfolds. To what degree their mutual social, sexual and physical straits have initiated this thematic turn of events is a point of reflection but the themes of freedom, desire, love, cooperation and finding one’s rightful place in the world are the key texts in The Objects of Love. As is the subject of the narrative: mutuality, interdependence, independence and finding a balance between them.

The Objects of Love is directed with great confidence and assuredness by first time feature director, Adrian Silvestre David. The developing story of a woman alone in the city and the key scenes of attraction, lovemaking, bickering, jealousy and deep comradery between the two women are all movingly and convincingly enacted, and the two lead actresses – excellent casting decisions both – share an obvious chemistry. It is refreshing to see a film carried by two strong female leads. At a running time of 115 minutes however, a bit of tough but judicious editing could have been undertaken especially in the scenes that were shot in the vacant house where the women decamp for a spell of time having taken advantage of, and by, the somewhat debauched male owner.

There is scope for various readings of the filmic story, however beyond the connotative one. One denotative issue that may be noted is the fact that the queer character is from a broken family, is alienated, angry and of dubious character while the erstwhile ‘straight’ character is from a more settled and bourgeois background which she eventually retreats and reverts to. This is often the backstory of the representations of gay characters as opposed to the straight characters who jump a perceived transgressive line or find themselves having to survive in an unfamiliar liminal space. This observation pales however, in light of the whole film which is sensitive, moving sort of urban ‘road’ movie – or more properly ‘street’ movie. One certainly hopes that the fact of the necessity for subtitles does not put off potential English-speaking distributors and exhibitors from picking it up.

James B. Evans