Marketed as “a poetic film, based on the relationship between the Mexican painter and the Costa Rican nurse Judith Ferreto”, Two Fridas investigates the final years of Frida Kahlo, as she was mostly bedridden with several broken vertebrae. Frida suffered a serious accident at the age of just 18 when the bus she was riding collided against car trolley, and her condition deteriorated towards the end of her life.
The doting nurse looked after Frida, made her dresses and even played the guitar. She had strong left-leaning convictions, triggering Frida to ask her straight away: “Are you a communist?”. The two females constantly argued, yet they had a strong, nearly symbiotic connection. Frida is played by the director Ishtar Yasin herself. While the filmmaker isn’t particularly bad as the Mexican painter (if hardly compared to Salma Hayek’s stunning performance in Julie Taymor’s Frida, 2002), Portuguese actress Maria de Medeiros was the wrong choice to play the talented and devoted carer. While undoubtedly a talented actress, the Portuguese thespian lacks vigour and sensuality, and just comes across as caricatural. The tears scream: “glycerine!!!”, her grey-bluish hair just looks silly.
That isn’t the major problem with Two Fridas. The dialogue is extremely forced and contrived. Everything is unnatural, from the street sequences to the intimate moments between the ailing Frida and Judy. The director tries too hard to be poetical, but the outcome is just clumsy. Plus the events are never entirely contextualised. Those not entirely familiar with Frida Kahlo’s life might assume that the Mexican painter’s accident took place shortly before the years portrayed in the movie. The story takes place in the 1950s, while the bus collision happened in 1925.
The film title is a reference to the fact that Judy begins to emulate Frida after she dies. She’s informed that Frida committed suicide (which is highly controversial, as the real cause of her death remains disputed). She too gets involved in a street accident (the portrayal of the accident is particularly poor, with Judith face on the ground bleeding and nothing else), and the film seems to suggest that she may have done it on purpose. Judy even hires a nurse to look after her, who eventually begins to dress the same colourful and exuberant dresses as Frida.
There is a particularly cringeworthy scene in the end of the movie when Judith meets with dead famous people, most of them left wing personalities: Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky, Yuri Gagari, Diego Rivera, Andre Breton and the worse impersonation of Charlie Chaplin I have seen in my life. There’s also a Grim Reaper, and it’s a sexy lady in black. It’s never entirely clear why Judith hallucinates about having dinner with these people. The film is overly concerned about the lyrical, and simply unable to make a coherent connection with the politics of Frida/Judith, The outcome is simply pretentious.
Sapphic movie-lovers looking for some hot action will probably be disappointed. Except for the “kiss of death” at the end of the film, there is virtually no carnal interaction between the females.
On the positive side, the cinematography does a decent job in translating the colours and the textures of Frida’s world to the silver screen, but that’s about the only aspect of Two Fridas that I can commend.
Two Fridas is showing in the Competition of the 22nd Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival taking place right now. DMovies is following the event live.