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Monstrously Barren: The Horror of the Childless Mother in Peruvian Thriller El vientre
February 28 @ 4:00 pm - 4:30 pm
This post-sabbatical presentation by Andrea Meador Smith, PhD, Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies, will begin at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, February 28, in Brandt Student Center room 118 and is held in conjunction with the 4th Annual Wine, Cheese & Scholarship faculty research symposium. You may attend in person or remotely via Zoom. For remote attendance and event details, please visit the Wine, Cheese & Scholarship Website or email email@example.com.
Lauded as the country’s first legitimate psychological thriller, Daniel Rodríguez Risco’s El vientre (2014) was a box-office success in Peru and reached an international audience thanks to its run on HBO Latino and FOX Latin America. The film’s ominous tagline, “What she wants is inside of you,” warns the spectator of the predatory villain, Silvia (Vanessa Saba), a 45-year-old widow who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. In this case, what she wants is to raise a baby since she was never able to carry a pregnancy to term. Silvia cannot bear that she was unable to give birth to her own child; it is this barrenness that unhinges her and, in turn, renders her unbearable to the audience.
In this study, I examine El vientre’s baby-crazed protagonist through the lens of film theorist Barbara Creed’s concept of the monstrous feminine, which she defines as “what it is about woman that is shocking, terrifying, horrific, abject.” Is it the excess of maternal desire that makes Silvia monstrous? Is it her status as a childless woman in a society that glorifies the maternal? Is it her aging body that stands in contrast to the vitality and fecundity of Mercedes (Mayella Lloclla), the young maid Silvia hires under the guise of cleaning her stately home? In “Monstrously Barren,” I consider what exactly makes Silvia horrific and the ways in which the cinematography reinforces her monstrosity to the audience.