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Mexico in 1937 around the port area of Progreso in the district of Yucatan. No grand houses here, just dockers'houses fronting on to cobble-stoned streets. Not much privacy either, if one can judge the way people come and go through the unlocked doors. There's plenty of atmosphere and real life characters. Some of them decidedly odd. I did get a bit confused with some of the women characters. With their dark hair and unsmiling faces they all looked much the same to me at first, but eventually I sorted out the characters.
The main character is a little boy called Eliseo who is not doing too well with his school studies despite threats from his somewhat cruel father who seems to be the union leader down on the wharves. They are a pretty rough lot down there.
One rainy night Eliseo calls at the home of his school mistress seeking shelter from a torrential downpour. She lets him in of course, and you've guessed it, she dries him off with a towel. But there's more... she invites him to share her double bed for the night. (I have a feeling the censor has been at work here). Now is that typical Mexican hospitality, mere kindness on her part or is there some ulterior motive? For one thing Eliseo starts to get A's in all his school work. There is a good scene where Eliseo sits at his injured father's bedside. "How do you explain your sudden improvement?" A pause, then..."She is a very good teacher!" The townsfolk believe the teacher is a witch. Gossip travels fast in Progreso. The sudden deaths of the headmaster and the school teacher's fisherman friend, together with the deaths of Eliseo's school pals are all linked to the school teacher. Is it just an unfortunate coincidence or does she possess some secret power over people and events? This is the question posed by the film. The locals are sure in their own minds she is a witch. Despite everything, Eliseo is drawn to her and continues into his adult married life. I must say Iwas drawn to her too. She commands attention in all her scenes. Her calm manner, quiet voice, stately appearance and eyes that revealed some hidden secrets accentuate the pervading air of mystery. Every room has its secrets" she says "and those secrets must remain within that room."
Summing up. the story of an affair between young student and teacher is not new, but here the setting is different, the characters are interesting and most viewers enjoy a dash of mystery to any tale.
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