“Happiness is an undeniable condition.”
In Marie Luisa Bemberg’s film, I Don’t Want to Talk About It, by the time Carlotta is two years old, it’s obvious that she’s different. Her mother, well-to-do widow, Dona Leonor, refuses to discuss Carlotta’s dwarfism with anyone, and she even goes as far as destroying any dwarf figurines and burning any copies of Snow White she can find. Dona Leonor’s fierce protectiveness is only a form of denial, for in reality, Dona Leonor is ashamed of her daughter. Dona Leonor’s attempts to cover Carlotta’s dwarfism are especially transparent in social situations. Carlotta is raised with love and privilege in the small Argentinean town of San Jose de Los Altares during the 1930s. It’s a town full of gossips and organized social events. No one mentions Carlotta’s dwarfism, and she matures into an educated, accomplished young woman.
And then dapper bachelor and ladies’ man, Ludovico d’Andrea (Marcello Mastroianni) arrives in town. There’s an air of mystery about Ludovico, and he manages to combine charm and sophistication with a sort of sad grace. His daily visits to Dona Leonor’s shop seem to hint at an attraction to the handsome widow, but Ludovico is in love with Carlotta. We are told: “Love is strange. It only comes rarely, and even rarer are those it chooses.”
I Don’t Want to Talk About It isn’t a love story by any means–even though a romance unfolds. Bemberg’s story is far too sophisticated to be a mere love story. The key to the film’s core is found in the narrator’s final descriptions. We rely on the narrator to conclude the film for us, and to subtly add meaning with the final few sentences. Fundamentally, the film’s message is that courage is required to be oneself–especially if the elements of ‘difference’, unattractiveness, or unpopularity are present. Carlotta is very comfortable in her petite body, for example. It must occur to her that she’s different–but she never questions her mother because to Carlotta it simply doesn’t matter. Denying truths about oneself is a form of spiritual suicide. This is something that the shop boy, Mojamme must learn. Carlotta is never guilty of that. In fact, she embraces her dwarfism and turns her state into a celebration. There’s a mystical fairy tale quality to the film–and this is enhanced by the cinematographer’s use of lighting. There’s the blue light over the streets at dusk, and scenes with the sunlight and sunset on the sea–this is a beautiful, haunting, delightful and subtle film. Bemberg is one of my favourite directors, and I recommend all her films. Sadly too few are available.