La búsqueda de Venecia (The Search for Venice)

by Arantxa Sánchez

Immobility feeds the unease, the fears, and the traces of ghosts that wander around one beauty parlor afternoon in Cuba. Monica (Marybel Garcia), Violet (Claudia Muniz) and Mayelin (Marianela Pupo) are three lives that are observed from the suffocating heat of a chair and the unfinished happiness of a pay day; their lives, no matter how routine they might seem, cry out for the start of a search, the search for Venice.

Venice (2014), by the Cuban director Kiki Alvarez, is a fluctuating journey through the everyday life of these three friends who, despite their differences and shortcomings, share one indelible thing common to all: their ability to dream, to wish. Despite being an expression with romantic touches, Alvarez moves away from that and presents a film shrouded by a brooding and pessimistic atmosphere.

Thus, by intertwining both components, the director's ability is highlighted through a "non-story": their routine from when they arrive at work, receive their pay, roam through the town and arrive at a disco. In appearance, the narrative seems to be linear, without any strong story lines, yet, the strength of Venice is in its characters.

The result of an exercise in improvisation, the staging adds a natural and transparent component that is expressed in simple dialogs and common situations that Alvarez turns into very peculiar lenses for seeing the world, metaphorical figures in which dreams and aspirations are broken down little by little.

The approach to each lens involves a journey in which each one reveals her fragility little by little: Monica through sex, Violet through disaffection and Mayelin through exposing her body. The supposed freedom they should acquire through partying and dancing takes on dense and cathartic shading that puts their real motivations to the test.

However, in spite of what that that freedom could mean (the money, the plans, the party), Kiki Alvarez makes use of an intimate, tight, close-up, claustrophobic camera with constant out of focus close-ups. As the film hits its stride, new viewpoints are put on the table where perhaps they are not prepared to take on the search and instead of that, they accept the moment they are living in.

Going against the Latin American artistic trend that highlights female emancipation, Venice is not a film about their redemption and strength because there is a nebulous essence about each of them built on the Cuban context, their life story and the decisions that they will inevitably have to make.

While many of the images that Alvarez offers us originate in cliché (three women looking toward the horizon, the almost dreamlike experience with a transsexual character, for example), the decisive moment when this goal can be achieved is cut off and transferred to a strange atmosphere of uncertainty. Thus, in this film with intensely feminine characteristics, the reconquering of themselves is incomplete and even unnecessary.

Why believe that every feminist expression must win victories and find answers? Venice is made with the esthetics of a documentalist who experiments with a fresh and sincere observation of the place of women in very imprecise and unstable contemporary contexts.

Monica, Violet and Mayelin began this exploration one night in Havana, looking to Venice as the representation of their dreams and aspirations until they realized that stupor and anxiety can also be basic components for taking ownership of a life, their life.