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Desiertos mares (1995)

A successful filmmaker deals with the current events of his life: his wife has just left him, his father has died, he is an alcoholic and desperately trying to finish a screenplay. While ... See full summary »
3 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Arturo Ríos ...
Juan Aguirre
Lisa Owen ...
Verónica Merchant ...
Carmen, madre de Juan
Juan Carlos Colombo ...
Joaquín, padre de Juan
Laura Almela ...
Javier De la Piedra ...
Juan (niño)
Luis Octavio González ...
Gabriel (niño)
Hombre del Norte


A successful filmmaker deals with the current events of his life: his wife has just left him, his father has died, he is an alcoholic and desperately trying to finish a screenplay. While coping with all of this he meets a beautiful aspiring filmmaker who could disrupt it all. Written by Peter, Nipomo, CA

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Release Date:

5 May 1995 (Mexico)  »

Also Known As:

Deserts Seas  »

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Symbolism Homework
22 February 2010 | by (ny-vt) – See all my reviews

Symbol Homework "Deserted Seas" is a symbol-loaded psychological drama about a modern film-maker's inner crisis which is set off by his wife's leaving him. In turn, this recalls a second story of the childhood loss of his father. Add in Juan's unfinished script about the Conquest of Mexico which runs through his tortured mind and you get the triple picture. Trying to unpack the muddle can test one's sanity, but given the high end acting and cinematography, maybe it's worth it--maybe not.

The idea of guardianship seems pivotal in "Deserted Seas." For, in the end, it is Juan's separation from his father as guardian or protector that empowers his life and script, and establishes his manhood. The problematic thing for me is that what he finds and expels is not his true inner demon, but a rather his sense of dependency. He rejects one pivotal aspect of his father, his association with angels, guardian angels, and protective wings, and he accepts the heroic conquistador father of his morphing script, who is both a murderer and a rapist. That Juan can accept this scenario means he can accept what history and nature ordain are male imperatives. (He has his father-as-conquistador accept the blessings of a priest for the conquest of Mexico)

Now Juan's father's actual identity does not suggest any abhorrent qualities, but Juan's does. His projections are convincing because as his breakup makes clear, he is fully capable of both aggressive force and questionable sex. Elena's declaration sets off a torrent of abuse, beginning with an almost maniacal demand to know her love interest's name and whether she's whored for him. His subsequent hostile, and vengeful displays far outweigh his little breaks of goddess worship--a manipulative aspect of his murderous heart. Elena says: "I grasp that you're lonely but what about me, your wife. Love went to hell because you never heard me." His contempt has been her hell.

Which leads us to the rape suggestion. Within a day of the announced breakup, Juan already has installed a new lover in his hip director's pad. And what is most remarkable about this is not that they have sex but that it has almost the exact sensual form and look as his father's scripted rape of the Indian woman. As the film runs in Juan's mind, the rape is unquestionable, and yet it appears "consensual" and as "erotic" as his own love-making with Margarita. As the Indian woman is captured by a conquistador, Margarita is captivated by the famous director.

The perversions and evasions of "Deserted Seas" may be societally based but are legitimized once again in Juan himself. He doesn't question the father in his film because that very portrait derives from his unquestioning self. He refuses to grasp his own wrongs because victimization is his rationale for his both his creative block and his breakup. His look inward masks his refusal to look outward at the effects of his actions on others--the sea of despair inside him being proof to him that he is the sufferer, not Elena.

The only action possible for him is decisive action--the kind that can end his ineffectualness. His coming to terms with his father's death, is blurred at best. But the guardian angel statue his father has given him just before he died, a totem that he has clung to, serves as a concrete symbol of the way out. A mature man has no need of protection, and guardian angels reek of devotion, sentiment, and femininity. He doesn't need his father, only the qualities he cast for his father in his latest film.

So, his way out is not in self-reflection but in ridding himself of female traits. During the Our Father in the Cathedral he sees his father with wings and sword--the wings are for his mother, the sword for him. The horse's heel--under King Charles bronze statue--in the long opening shot of the film is the force he wants. And the crashing of a famous Angel statue at the moment of his father's death, also points to a separation. But the angel is still in his possession and Juan's crisis is not quick ending. His salvation, perversely, does not lie in becoming less male, but anti-female.

It's women--even as creative muses--who torment and trap him. Elena is a bitch. She's too male, too insubordinate. She may have wanted his protection, but not at any cost. Margarita, as intuitive and tender as she may be, is plotting her male career at his expense. She flatters his Chinese kingly dragon yang sign and makes a vampire film, so she knows the male territory. Only his mother is a benign influence. She fittingly accepts the protection of his father. She mothers two sons, is chaste, subservient, an devoted to her husband. Her passivity only makes Juan's father loom larger in his imagination, though. And she's also an Indian, a true orphan, and a a woman too--and as muse, a bit suspect. But she is certainly kin to the only angel Juan may tolerate--the angel in the house.

In the end, the mugging, the suicide attempt, the re-directed gun shot, and the smashed angel on the concrete below. Juan tells Margarita he wants to be alone. He contemplates Sirius. Which unites him with his father just as his sea visit will displace his father. Thus filling the emptiness inside him with his new male identity, which is no more than a confirmation of a social power (as upper class, male, producer, director, writer) he has refused to recognize. In the end, the male protagonist is a Male protagonist.

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