The Holy Girl (Argentina/Italy/Netherlands/Spain; 106 min.)

directed by: Lucrecia Martel
starring: Mercedes Morán; Carlos Belloso; María Alche
La Niña Santa
Michael says: "Lucrecia Martel’s THE HOLY GIRL is a perplexing, but ultimately rewarding (for me) film. More a series of vignettes involving several families in Argentina, THE HOLY GIRL examines religion, awakening sexuality and family dynamics in a highly symbolic manner. Amalia and her friend Josefina are learning about religious vocation in a class. When a doctor who is attending a conference at a hotel where she lives with her mother presses up against her erotically in a crowd, Amalia suddenly becomes aware of her sexuality, as well as a calling from God to save the invasive professional. Meanwhile, the doctor begins a cautious flirtation with Amalia’s mother. The relationships between the players in unknown among them, while a series of comic happenings occur around them. Martel’s ability to tackle serious subjects in a context that is tinged with humor is deft and remarkable. There are lots of images involving water, and lots of emphasis on sounds: the tones of a theremin, the static from a radio and television, and the whispers made by the characters that we viewer are not privy to. Martel leads the viewer to an explosion of realization but stops the films short before we witness any fall out. It’s a frustrating yet inspired moment to end the film and I found myself smiling when the credits rolled.

"The group of people who watched the film spent a good 15 minutes afterward discussing just what the heck THE HOLY GIRL was all about. I’m not sure this is a film for everyone, but Martel is clearly a talented director, and the performances in THE HOLY GIRL are quite strong, especially young María Alche as Amalia. 4 cats"

Bruce says: "THE HOLY GIRL is a story about young girls discovering the sexual side of life and attempting to make sense of it under the oppression of their Catholic upbringing. Nicely filmed and acted THE HOLY GIRL tells a story that is paper thin. In fact, for the first thee quarters of the film I couldn’t decide for sure where the film was going. In ways it is a thriller without an evil force; it is a cautionary tale without a precise moral position; it is occasionally a farce without true comedic values.

"Most of the drama takes place at a hotel run by Helena (Mercedes Moran) and her brother Freddy (Alejandro Urdapilleta). Helena’s daughter Amalia (Maria Alche) is under the spell of the stories she hears in school - stories of salvation and redemption. Her best friend Josephina is constantly keeping her testosterone charged boyfriend at bay. When a medical convention convenes at the hotel, one of the keynote speakers approached Amalia from behind in a crowd and rubs himself against her. Amalia confides in Josephina and decides it is her duty to save this man. Instead, Amalia's own sexual desires are awakened. Josephina uses the information to suit her own needs.

"Director Martel has great control over her individual scenes and certainly draws good performances from her actors. Many of the scenes are filmed in such a way that the actors’ movements are restricted. This adds to the psychological intensity, giving the story a foreboding touch. Another problem with the film – in addition to the aforementioned confusion - is that the subplots involving Maria’s mother and uncle go nowhere. They exist simply to set the tone of the film. In the end, I wanted a bit more than that. 3 cats"

Ivy says: "I caught THE HOLY GIRL in Toronto last year. I was very excited since I am a huge fan of Martel's first film LA CIENEGA.

"I was confounded by the film. It definitely needed more from me than my film weary festival mind could handle. I agree with Bruce that Martel continues to prove herself as talented and the film is very well crafted. But this is a film that is complex enough that it needs a second viewing in order to really grasp the intricacy of the story line.

"I liked the depiction of the birth of sexuality - clearly showing how loaded everyday life can be for a teenager with sexual undertone. Michael's description of the film as a series of scenes is something that I will keep in mind. I think it will help draw the film together.

"This film may not be for everyone but I highly recommend LA CIENEGA!!!"