Review: La niña santa – The Holy Girl (2004)

Director: Lucrecia Martel | 106 minutes | drama | Actors: Maria Alché, Carlos Belloso, Mercedes Morán, Alejandro Urdapilleta, Julieta Zylberberg, Mía Maestro, Marta Lubos, Arturo Goetz, Alejo Mango, Mónica Villa, Leandro Stivelman, Manuel Schaller, Miriam Diaz, Rodolfo Cejas, Rodolfo Cabrera, Maria Susana Falcon , Guillermo Enrique Castro, Victor Anuch

For the average Dutch person, many of the issues discussed in “La niña santa” will be miles away from their own experience. Devout Catholicism is something that can hardly be found in Dutch culture, and certainly not among the young.

However, for Argentinian teenagers Amalia (Maria Alché) and Josefina (Julieta Zylberberg), this is daily fare in “La niña santa”. Especially Amalia gets carried away by her religiously tinted fantasies, which are also reinforced by the fact that she is in the middle of puberty.

Maria Alché is a special appearance, and well cast as Amalia. However, in this film, like the other actors, she stands in the shadow of Argentina’s most celebrated actress, Mercedes Morán, who plays Helena. Mercedes Morán is a truly stunning actress, who draws all the attention as soon as she appears on screen. Morán brings some warmth and color to this otherwise rather dead, gray and flat film with her playing.

About director Lucrecia Martel can be reported that in 2001 she won a prize at the Berlin film festival with her debut film “La ciénaga”. Not entirely coincidentally, Mercedes Morán also played a leading role in this film. Also, “La ciénaga” takes place in the same environment as “La niña santa”: a drab provincial town in Argentina.

In one way or another, the story of “La niña santa” cannot be really fascinating for a moment. Things are about to happen all the time, but then nothing happens. After a while you as a viewer get the feeling that you no longer care at all what the main characters do, or what will happen next. And that is a bad thing, because a film stands or falls with the willingness of the viewer to go along with the story.

Martel also tries to incorporate too much (religious) symbolism in this film, thereby overshooting her goal. It makes the story even tougher than it already is. A film for the real go-getters, and otherwise just let it go.

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