Pure, unadulterated cinema, the latest from Chilean maestro Pablo Larraín is straight fire: a scorching character study of one woman’s pursuit of sexual and political liberation, lit up by Mariana Di Girolamo’s sensational lead performance.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2020
This film is screening in select cinemas and venues across the country. See here for details.
Few films in recent memory have blazed a trail as passionately as Pablo Larraín’s Ema, which signals the director’s return to the present and his native Chile via the incandescent city of Valparaíso.
Mariana Di Girolamo, in a star turn you won’t be able to take your eyes off, plays the titular dancer, mother and pyro-lover impervious to social norms. On a quest to reclaim her adopted son Polo, whose absence explains her deteriorating marriage to choreographer Gastón (Gael García Bernal), Ema sets out on a path of deliberate resistance, embracing the orgasmic street movement of reggaeton and embarking on a fluid succession of relationships with people of all genders in her orbit. For reasons that don’t need explaining, she also owns a flamethrower and rejoices in burning shit down – a none-too-subtle metaphor for her relentless pursuit of catharsis and the film’s white-hot energy through which creative and sexual expression bursts forth.
Every bit the firecracker that had critics in Venice, where it premiered, clamouring for superlatives, Larraín’s film is visually stunning, fuelled with combustible symbolism and physicality, and a genuine war cry for dancers, lovers and the matriarchy everywhere. — Tim Wong
About the Filmmaker
Pablo Larraín was born in Santiago, Chile. His international breakthrough, Tony Manero (2008), was followed by Post Mortem (2010), No (NZIFF12), The Club (NZIFF15) and Neruda (NZIFF16). In 2016 he directed his first English-language film, the Oscar-nominated Jackie.