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Gloria (2013) follows a single middle-aged woman with grown kids who no longer need her and her romantic life. She meets an ex-navy man and begins a relationship with him, however, his overly dependent daughters hinder their relationship. By the end, he abandons her, but it is Gloria who has the last laugh since she asserts her power and her individuality.
Chile After Pinochet
In 1988, Chile staged a referendum to decide whether Pinochet would continue to be the head of state and the people finally decided to vote him out. By 1990, Patricio Alwyn was elected president, and a new era in Chilean politics and culture was ushered in. Though, this new era would not look completely different than the old one. Pinochet would remain chief of the armed forces until 1998 when he assumed a lifelong senate position. Luckily, he left that position stating the reason as poor health. He escaped to England where his friendship with Margaret Thatcher and support during the Falkland War was able to get him immunity. Changes would come to Chile at a slow pace with the constitution only being amended to take away military powers in 2003.
The 21st century was marked by a need on the part of the Chilean government to reconcile with the atrocities of the past regime. Unfortunately according to a Supreme Court ruling, the government had the right to investigate, but not prosecute the crimes of the regime. Still, the Rittig Commission and the National Corporation for Reparation and Reconciliation was set up to deal with these past crimes.
Many Chileans felt that theirs was a country that could not change. Though since Pinochet’s era many more Chileans have been able to vacation in Miami and Paris, 60% of the population still lived below the poverty line. This ambivalence to change was reflected in Chile’s shockingly low voter turnout and Chile’s continued reliance on neoliberal policies. By the end of Pinochet’s reign, these policies had already been widely accepted by the rest of the continent and through the economic crisis of 2000 and the recent protests in 2019, we have seen the government stand by it. Though, I should not paint Chile with a broad brush. Many Chileans are working hard to create real change in the country and some of it has been accepted. Since Pinochet’s time, many more women have been actively involved in politics including Michele Bachelet, a former detainee under Pinochet, became the first president in Chile to be re-elected since 1932. Young Chileans have become particularly active especially due to protests about funding for Universities and they present a possibility for a more inclusive and equal Chilean society.
Gloria is one in a long line of internationally acclaimed Chilean films from the past decade. This film along with No, Neruda, and A Fantastic Woman have received countless awards and nominations, but next to these films, Gloria seems to be the least political. I would have to counter this point particularly because of the unique choice of profession for Gloria’s love interest in the film. He is a former naval officer who worked in transportation and while director, Sebastian Lelio, reasserts that not everyone in the navy was directly responsible for atrocities, the choice of job is significant. He is often presented as a foil to Gloria. During one conversation about politics and recent student protests, he claims that the Chile of old no longer exists and that the country is now without leaders. Gloria, on the other hand, was much more sympathetic to the plight of these students.
Though the lasting image from this film is that of his paintball guns which he gives Gloria after a paintball date. After he abandons her at a party meant for him to meet her children, she tries to give them back but he won’t accept. He still wants to occupy a space in her life and he will do this through his guns. The most cathartic moment of the film comes when she is en route to a wedding and stops by his house to drop off the guns and shoot him and his house leaving a colorful mark. Could this be a final goodbye to militarism and neoliberalism from a woman who has finally realized her self-worth? That’s what it seems like.
The Music of Gloria
One of the most striking aspects of the film is how much of a role the music plays in Gloria’s self-discovery and how uncynical it is. Lelio is very passionate about this as he has stated that he doesn’t understand why a song by the Rollings Stones has more value than a ballad by Paloma San Basilio when human beings feel emotion through music even if it’s tacky. Throughout the film, Gloria goes out dancing to disco, salsa, or pop music as she tries to find her footing in this world. Though, Lelio believes that Bossa Nova is the most important music in the film even though it only features in one scene in which Gloria watches her daughter play “Aguas de Março” at a party. Lelio states “I would even go so far as to say that Bossa Nova itself was like an aesthetic beacon for the film” because of the sensual and gentle nature of the genre.
Indeed, the “Aguas de Março” scene is pivotal as it comes after a long absence of Gloria going out or listening to music in her car. It serves as a kind of wake-up call as to what is important in life. The final song in the film also serves a similar purpose. It is a final act of self-realization. At the wedding of a friend, the famous Italian disco song, “Gloria” comes on and it’s different from all the other dance scenes in the film. This song that celebrates a mysterious woman, Gloria is the final thing she needs to realize her own worth after everything she’s been through. This time, she doesn’t dance with a man, she turns them down and dances alone but very happy. With a breakthrough performance from Paulina Garcia and a sympathetic but not overly sentimental lens, Gloria remains a standout in Chilean cinema.