Aurora − Women Under Construction
27 January 2021
For each of the features in competition, IFFR asked a critic, writer, academic or programmer to write a short reflection in a personal capacity. The resulting series of ‘Appreciations’ aims to encourage viewers − and filmmakers − at a time when there is no physical festival. Paula Arantzazu Ruiz shines a light on Aurora.
Luisa finds it difficult to put down roots. She works as an architect and also teaches in creative workshops for children. In her private life, she has established a long-distance relationship and enjoys the freedom of not being accountable to anyone. “Do you agree that watching a building under construction, with the scaffolding surrounding it, is more beautiful? When the scaffolding is removed, the building looks horrible! What a pity that the world could not stay in such a state, surrounded all the time by scaffolding!”, Luisa says to her students in the first scene of Aurora, the latest feature film by Costa Rican filmmaker Paz Fábrega. As we get to know the character of Luisa better, we will also understand the truth that is concealed in this mysterious thought.
In Aurora, Fábrega takes up a woman’s crisis as a narrative motif; a subject that was also at the core of her surprising debut, Agua fría de mar (2010). Some ideas and emotions of that film reverberate in this new one, be they of a private nature, such as the surreptitious bond between two women of different ages who barely know each other, or of a political scope, such as the pressure that society exerts on women, on the feminine. Formally, however, Fábrega takes a solid step with Aurora in the art of storytelling, moving on from Agua fría de mar. As in her debut film, Aurora closely follows one of the two female protagonists. But here the story is much more concrete, constantly looking for the interaction between Luisa and the other main character, 17-year-old Julia, who has become pregnant. As a starting point, this image of two women and an unwanted pregnancy inevitably will lead to a story about changes, as every pregnancy is a story of metamorphosis and transition. In Aurora, the question becomes: Which of the two women will be transformed the most?
Although a pregnancy presupposes a radical change in life, Fabrega prefers to show the subtle transformations that, little by little, alter Luisa’s and Julia's lives. Delicately using the shot/reverse shot, isolating their faces in the frame as the film progresses, Fabrega immerses us in the sensibility of her gaze on these two women. She looks at them without prejudice, trying to reveal to us the unfathomable substance of their thoughts. As an audience, we accompany them, but we are not above them.
In such a position, it is not difficult to appreciate that, beneath the surface of the images, tinted by a veil of pastel tones, a whirlwind of emotions is about to emerge. As in life itself, in Aurora there are many doubts and feelings that may never have a voice, as they become a distant echo, like a wish postponed.
Paula Arantzazu Ruiz is a journalist and film critic from Spain who has written for Catalan newspaper Ara.
‘Appreciations’ aims to encourage viewers − and filmmakers − at a time when there is no physical festival. Discover more short reflections on the features in competition.