Two Fridas


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Two Fridas is Ishtar Yasin's second film
"Though Mauro Herce's cinematography is strong, Yasin struggles to take us beyond the look to the feel of the women's relationship." | Photo: Courtesy of Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Director Ishtar Yasin is aiming for the poetic rather than the narrative with her surreal portrait of Frida Kahlo's relationship with her nurse Judith Ferreto (Maria de Medeiros). Picking up the story with Ferreto, as her grasp of the now fades and her memories become increasingly vivid, Yasin attempts to evoke the bond between the two women. This relationship is then mirrored to a degree by Ferreto's later reliance on her own carer (Grettel Méndez) after an accident, just as Frida relied on Ferreto to help her cope with pain.

Yasin also plays around with the idea of the nurse "dancing with death" and we see her visited at night by a little girl in a skull mask, who could have walked straight from the frame of Kahlo's 1938 painting Girl With Death Mask.

Copy picture

These pictorial nods to Kahlo's art are a constant presence, along with a colour palette that favours vibrant purples and yellows, which are also evocative of the Mexican artist's work. And there's no doubt that the more you know about Kahlo and her artwork before going in, the more you will get out of the film - those expecting to learn something, however, are set for disappointment. Though Mauro Herce's cinematography is strong, Yasin struggles to take us beyond the look to the feel of the women's relationship. The fragmented narrative scatters too widely, a situation that is far from helped by the dialogue - or rather the lack of it. Most of what is said comes in the form of declarations, with each character trapped in their own little world. When interactions come, they are also little more than surreal snippets. "Are you a Communist?" Kahlo asks. "I'm a Scorpio," comes the non-reply.

Medeiros is fine in the central role but she is given little to work with and the difference between her as a middle-aged nurse and later as an elderly woman feels too slight. Yasin herself takes on the role of Kahlo and looks the part, but also gives herself little dialogue of purpose. Kahlo's Two Fridas painting depicts the artist in duplicate, in two different outfits with each incarnation's heart clearly visible and linked - Yasin sets up the mirror idea between Kahlo and Ferreto but can't quite get the emotional lifeblood to pump. We can see but not feel the connection.

Reviewed on: 24 Nov 2018
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A drama with roots in the historic character of Judith Ferreto, the nurse of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, who spent her latter days in Costa Rica.


Black Nights 2018

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