New Internationalist

The Headless Woman

March 2010

Written and directed by Lucrecia Martel

Three indigenous boys are playing on a country road with their dog. As a group of middle-class women are packing up after a picnic with their kids, one drives off, along the same road where the boys are playing. When her mobile phone rings and she looks down to reach for it, the car thuds into something. The dog? One of the boys?

She drives on. She seems physically OK, although she’s hit her head. But she is oddly out of things, and Martel’s direction carries this dislocation over to the viewer. Slowly it becomes clearer, and we piece together her extended family, though the ever-present darker-skinned domestics, who tend the garden, fetch and carry, make tea, remain peripheral. The men of the family get the car repaired and cleaned up, lose the hospital record of her visit.

It’s as if none of it had happened, and Martel shows the mentality of people complicit in Argentina’s repression and ‘disappearances’. Involving and disturbing.


This column was published in the March 2010 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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