Bad Intentions

By - 07 March, 2012

Set against the background of 1980s Communist guerilla attacks from the Shining Path group, Rosario Garcia-Montero’s Bad Intentions follows the experiences and development of Cayetana (Fatima Buntix), a young girl coming to terms with the ideas of life, death and mortality.

Living a sheltered and privileged life with her valium dependant mother and amateur artist step-father, Cayetana immerses herself in a confused and morbid fantasy world. Obsessing over martyred Peruvian war heroes, she invents for herself a system of ritualistic-like escape. This involves Barbie dolls, fake blood and the few snippets of the political, religious and ordinary social life she manages to glimpse over the walls of her middle-class compound. Lost in this world, Cayetana ‘acts out’ against most of the people in her life. Only her sickly cousin Jimena (Kani Hart) and womanising absentee father are spared her scorn and disregard, the former being her only friend and confidant, the latter being hero worshipped and placed upon a pedestal despite his complete failure as a dad.

Once her mother falls pregnant, Cayetana becomes convinced that the birth of her brother will result in her own death, adopting a mantra borrowed from her school history teacher “two suns cannot shine in one sky” to justify this belief. As such, she despises the unborn child, and redoubles her efforts to cause her mother grief. The pregnancy becomes the catalyst which forces her to contemplate her own mortality, making her more aware of the fragility of the lives around her.

A large part of the success Garcia-Montero has achieved with this film is due to the intricate weaving together of wider social aspects to create the isolated bubble of Cayetana’s life. The threat from the Communist guerillas is never explained to us, the impact and relevance of Catholicism to people’s lives is present but not developed, and the class divide between Cayetana’s privileged level of society and the common Peruvian, whilst being a constant of the film, is never commented upon. We are given all of these intricate social political themes through the eyes of Cayetana, a girl who is sheltered from the realities of these issues, but who can not escape them. Rather than existing for themselves, these aspects of Peruvian society become integral parts of Cayetana’s world, existing to serve her selfish, and often destructive, delusions.

As the pregnancy progresses, Cayetana wraps her head around the notions of death and distances herself further from her mother. Getting more and more involved in her fantasy world, the barriers between her life and the ‘real world’ outside are literally raised. The walls to the compound are heightened, bulletproof glass is invested in, and, as massacres are committed around the country, a swimming pool is installed in the garden.

Cayetana’s conversations with dead war heroes on their journey towards grizzly deaths reinforce in her romantic ideas of martyrdom, building up her growing arrogance. The futile movement towards death and defeat for the heroes becomes the pattern for Cayetana’s notions of mortality, if one can die a hero, everything is OK. She develops for herself notions of death, heaven and God, seeing it all as a big challenge, as a game. Even as her cousin Jimena falls seriously ill, Cayetana is so wrapped up in her delusional world that she makes a deal with God that, if she climbs a “sand mountain”, he will make Jimena better, and even suggests that her Grandma should die in Jimena’s place.

Whilst almost every action Cayetana makes in the film is deplorable, selfish and rude, I found myself liking her character throughout the whole film. This is in no small part down to Fatima Buntix’s excellent portrayal of the character. She skilfully ensures that Cayetana is not a one dimensional spoilt brat, but that she reflects all of the aspects of her environment. Cayetana is more than she should be, as a middle class, only child, but through her own naivety and the sheltered nature of her life she does not have the skills or the opportunity to actualise herself completely.

The film as a whole is beautifully, and often amusingly, shot. The imagery and striking scenes used tell at least half of the story on their own. In building up her ideas of the world (and ours as the viewer) Cayetana relies upon what she sees and overhears, what she can spy on, rather than what she is shown or told. Her secret rituals and shocking acts are striking due to their visual nature, rather than through their justification or means. The film successfully carries us through Cayetana’s development, until she eventually matures and gets her head around the issues she has been struggling with. That is, until the final scene, which shows her that death is never as neat and predictable as she had hoped, and that it can come out of nowhere to shock and upset you.

Bad Intentions is showing as part of ¡Viva! festival 2012 at Cornerhouse, Machester. See cornerhouse.org/viva2011 for screenings.


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