Nominated with four Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director (Hector Babenco), Best Adapted Screenplay (Leonard Schrader), and Best Actor (William Hurt), the film “Kiss of the Spider Woman” is a very thought provoking film by South American filmmaker Hector Babenco. The film’s screenplay was adapted from Manuel Puig’s 1976 novel of the same name. William Hurt’s excellent portrayal of a homosexual convict earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1985. Hurt and other members of the film cast and crew also got nominated in several award-giving bodies. “Kiss of the Spider Woman” deals with issues of homosexuality; escapism; and the divide between fantasy and reality; and the impacts of rightist regimes on individuals and the struggle against such regimes. The lastly mentioned issue tackled in the film makes “Kiss of the Spider Woman” a highly political film.
References: Bordwell, David & Thompson, Kristin. 2004. Film Art: An Introduction, 7th Edition. Boston, MA, USA: McGraw Hill Stone, Judy, 1985.
MENDOZA, O. II M.
Offered in the point of view of the two characters, the movie depicted how people treat what they perceive as outcasts of the society. We cannot deny the stereotypical presentation of the film as it presented a gay window dresser who molested a boy
and was put to prison. The character of Molina became an effective conveyor of how people treat gays in particular and how society persecutes them in general. In the point of view of Valentine, he was portrayed stereotypically as a leftist-journalist, who was associated with the communist revolution, with all those manly features only a cadre could posses. Valentine’s character is the ideal portrayal of how our society treats political subversives and our loathing of differing political ideas that are presented to us. These social outcasts therefore are put to prison just to reform them and correct their differences with the hope of blending with the society.
The film highlights the differences in the world and how they can co exist and eventually relate. It is a brilliant study of worlds in collision. The black and white codes of straight vs. gay, masculine vs. feminine, reality vs. fantasy, and power vs. submission erode until nothing is left but myriad shades of gray (Klemm, 2009). In the film, we can identify these collisions in the characters and what they portray. At first, there was a really rigid conflict between the two, in terms of personal emotions, relationships and desires. Not to mention the political ideology and activism that was also a highlighted theme in the movie. The movie offered two very different characters, one who is an avid fan of escapist fantasies and the other, a die-hard communist who disregards pleasure and romance. However, they made a connection through their shared experiences in the prison cell and their toleration of each other’s differences. They transformed each other in such a profound way in that they found meaning in each other. Valentine succumbed to his emotional and physical desires to Molina, and learned how to express them. Molina meanwhile, struggled to find meaning in his life and decided to search for it through joining the revolutionary struggle presented to him by Valentine.
The film did not bother to hide its allegories but presented it in another layer of narrative which is a movie in the movie itself. The film tried to present to the viewers that the boundaries of fantasy and reality can be bridged and that we can escape the harshness of reality if we really want to. The other layer of narrative in the film provided both of the characters a way to escape the prison cell and dwell to their memories and desires. In the latter part of the film, another allegory although revolving around this concept was also presented by Molina. It was the spider woman and her coveted kiss. The spider woman being trapped in her own web is symbolic of us being trapped in what we are in now. Being trapped in our reality. The kiss connotes liberation from this trap in that we can freely dwell in reality and fantasies providing a bridge between the two and ultimately provide meaning in our lives.
The film is a very effective medium in presenting the political content of the many relevant issues that are being presented in the film. Most import
antly, the film was considered as somewhat arresting when it presented and explored concepts of gender roles and answers questions of what should a woman be, what one should look like. The character of Molina, who considers herself a woman is a massive leap for gay liberation, as it disputed the criticisms of the society to homosexuals. On the other hand, the film also presented a gender role which was centered in the cha
racter of Valentine. The film explored how the society expects a man to act, especially in the time where masculinity was depicted to suppress emotions and desires.The author of the film was very effective in presenting these gender roles because he was once persecuted of being a homosexual during his boyhood in Argentina. When asked of what people should expect of the film, he replied:
"I wanted to
explore the basic dynamics of human behavior and
show that sometimes a person becomes trapped in a role when there are
possibilities of being many other things."
These gender roles were razed when the two characters of the film eventually broke the norms of what society expects them to be, sealed profoundly with the magic of the kiss.