This film was shown as part of a Vancouver Film Festival several years ago, where also Mr. Perez's "La Vida es Silbar" was presented in 1999. Last night it was shown as part of CUNY Cinematheque.
One can't help but to think that Madagascar is the continuation of Hello Hemingway, which was presented last week in the same venue. Could it be that director Fernando Perez is continuing the story about what happened to the young girl in the first film after she grew up and had her own family? It seems to this viewer it could be possible.
The mother and the daughter are trapped in their surroundings. They are constantly moving around. What happened to the mother, as a young woman, is happening to the young girl right now. The young Laurita wants to get away from it all, the same way as her mother did in the first story. Looking at the young woman one can predict that maybe at one point in her life, she might commit suicide. Also, Laurita seems to be totally disenchanted by what life has dealt her.
The mother's world is very limited. She goes to her teaching job, although one never sees her tutoring anyone. She sits in the faculty room, surrounded by bored teachers. She is finally recognized by the dean of the university, but at that moment she is given a postcard from a former student that has gone to Paris. She tells a fellow teacher she couldn't care less to know Paris, or London or Rome, perhaps because it is impossible to even think about going away from the responsibility of having her mother and daughter to support. Also, the teacher one sees sharpening the pencil announces she will be going to another town, away from the capital.
The mother recalls her youth several times, once mentioning the fun she had with a mulatto friend who turned into a model and how she also had pet mice but all disappeared leaving only the female behind. Could she be saying they have been left behind by men that went abroad? At the height of her despair, she burns a chicken dish she is cooking and laments how everything is against her.
The grandmother's role is very symbolic in that she is seen playing monopoly, a game that wouldn't mean anything in a marxist society. We hear her while she is playing saying to her partner that she will buy as many properties as she can.
Ultimately, isn't the title of the film revealing? That society has failed, for reasons that also made the island of Madagascar socialist regime fail. Also, the island has become a prison where no one escapes, and nothing makes sense at all, be it because of the "special period", or because the 'blockade' of the country.
Fernando Perez obviously knows what he is saying, very well. It is a piercing look he is sharing with us. It is probably very painful for the director to tell it, but he had the courage to do it.
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