‘Seis puntos sobre Emma’: Blind motivation?
Roberto Pérez Toledo’s film about a ballsy blind woman has a strong central performance by Verónia Echegui, but it’s hard to feel sympathy for her character.
By Olwen Mears
Seis puntos sobre Emma tells the story of Emma, a blind woman of around 30 who is attempting to get pregnant, with Machiavellian calculation. Interviews with director Roberto Pérez Toledo (himself a wheelchair-user) reveal that one of the main aims behind his film was to offer a portrait of a blind person as a flawed human being rather than a victim.
Perhaps it is because I have grown up with visually impaired people, but whenever I see a film purporting to offer this kind of insight into the life of someone with a disability my first reaction is: tell me something new.
After all, films featuring portrayals of disabled characters as strong and capable individuals already exist, albeit in short supply. Perhaps the most memorable example is 1986’s Children of a Lesser God, for which deaf actress Marlee Matlin was awarded an Oscar. Twenty-six years later we are far beyond presenting disability as a maudlin topic.
Seis puntos sobre Emma is an admirable attempt at avoiding schmaltz. It paints a not wholly likeable portrait of a disabled person (in this case Emma, who is totally blind) whose predatory attempts to have a baby are questionable on several levels.
Emma lives alone and leads a mostly independent life, only relying on her friend and neighbour to read her post (and her guide dog to get her about town). It is debatably these details of her life which are most akin to what could be described as an honest insight, precisely for their ordinariness: Emma irons, she cooks, she takes the bus and refuses when offered a seat by an elderly woman.
Emma regularly attends a group meeting in which young people with various disabilities talk honestly and openly about their lives with the aid of a (non-disabled) counsellor, played by Alex García. As with most conversations between twenty- and thirty-somethings, group members invariably end up talking about relationships and sex.
These scenes provide some of the most compelling moments of the film. Among the other characters is Lucía, a paraplegic who is wondering whether to pay for sex. Like Echegui, actress Miriam Hernandez is not genuinely disabled, unlike Paloma Soroa, the actress who plays Livia, a deaf woman also trying to deal with her sexuality. There is an interesting dichotomy as she explains (through an interpreter) about struggling to tell her family about being a lesbian, while conversely wondering how to break it to a potential girlfriend she met on-line that she is deaf.
Much as I admired Veronica Echegui’s undeniably meticulous portrayal of a blind woman, I did not warm to the character of Emma. In part this is because, in a film supposedly offering an “insight” into the lives of disabled people, my preference is for an actor who genuinely lives with an impairment.
With a blind actress in the role of Emma we are watching a story about a girl who also happens to live with disability; casting a sighted person inevitably shifts the focus onto the admirable performance of a sighted actor playing someone with an impairment.
Too much therapy
However, the main reason for my lack of sympathy for Emma was simply down to the character herself: she is so ballsy, so apparently sure of herself, frankly she got on my nerves. Particularly in the therapy sessions. In one such scene, in which paraplegic Lucía wonders why a handsome gigolo would be interested in a girl like her, Emma replies: “because he realises how wonderful you are”. She frequently takes over the sessions with mawkish comments like this one, to the point where the counsellor is almost surplus to requirements. Little wonder he ends up videoing her obsessively. Perhaps he is hoping for inspiration?
Of course, the problem is not the sentiment so much as Emma’s unswerving self-assuredness. It would be different if we got to see Emma’s insecurities. But, though they are obviously there, Echegui fails to give any true depth to the character of Emma. Though we do not have to like her, the audience should appreciate the complexities of the character. But it is too difficult to get beyond Echegui’s admittedly convincing portrayal of a blind person to really understand what truly motivates the character of Emma.
‘Seis puntos sobre Emma’ is on general release across Spain.
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Published: May 18 2012
Category: Culture, Featured, Films, Spain News
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=6195
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Tags: film, Marlee Matlin, Miriam Hernandez, Seis puntos sobre Emma, spain, Spain cinema, spain news, Spanish cinema, spanish news