Review by Maria Guarino
Dedicated "to all the people who have the courage to be different in order to be themselves,” the film De eso no se habla (1993) directed by Maria Luisa Bemberg portrays a narrative determined to answer the question, posed by Nirmala Erevelles in her book Disability and Difference in Global Contexts: “What might it mean to welcome the disability to come, to desire it?” (27) Upon realizing the permanence of her daughter Charlotte’s (Alejandra Podesta) condition as a dwarf, the mother (Luisina Brando) works hard to normalize the external world for her, engaging in violent acts such as destroying her neighbor’s decorative statues and burning fairy tales with dwarfs in them, and refusing to accept pity or special treatment from anyone in town, insisting on equal treatment for her daughter, linguistically (“Charlotte” vs. the diminutive: Carlotita”), and socially, demanding, for example, that Charlotte be gifted a full-sized horse for her fifteenth birthday as opposed to a pony, and that she be given the opportunity to perform at a piano recital.
However, Charlotte’s mother, though consistently fighting for Charlotte’s rights to live a "normal” life, did not grant Charlotte the opportunity to live and enjoy her life with the body she physically inhabited. She preferred to “not talk about it” as opposed to “welcome the disability” or “desire it.” Ludovico D’Andrea (Marcello Mastroianni), an older gentleman who regularly visits Charlotte, giving her classes and gifts, quickly begins to court her, and ultimately asks her mother for Charlotte’s hand in marriage. The mother’s reaction is quite displeased, as she assumed the man was courting her, though she ultimately allows it.
However, the movie ends with Charlotte meeting a circus for the first time, and leaving her husband to join them, displaying, in my opinion, a failure on everyone’s part to have welcomed and desired Charlotte’s disability. Though she ultimately achieved a feeling of acceptance and fulfillment, she needed to abandon the traditional societal and familial structure to do so, and live as a designated other in order to finally gain acceptance. This is another movie I would classify as “disability cinema,” as entire whole narrative is pushed by the (non)acceptantce of Charlotte’s disability. I would also be interested in exploring a label that has something to do with mother-daughter relationships, as Charlotte’s mother is so enamored by and protective of her daughter, yet then threatened when Mr. D’Andrea is interested in Charlotte instead of her.
Erevelles, Nirmala. Disability and Difference in Global Contexts: Enabling a Transformative
Body Politic. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
To quote this review, please use the reference: "Guarino Maria (2020), Review of No se habla " Gynocine Project, ed. Barbara Zecchi,
DE ESO NO SE HABLA
Directed by María Luisa Bemberg
1993 106 min
Produced by Oscar Kramer
Written by María Luisa Bemberg, Jorge Goldenberg, Aldo Romer
The script was based on a short story by Julio Llinas
Cinematography Félix Monti
Edited by Juan Carlos Macías
Marcello Mastroianni - Ludovico D'Andrea
Luisina Brando - Leonor
Alejandra Podesta - Charlotte