‘Amazing Elisa’ Reveals Underlying Malice in Innocent Spaces
Fantastic Fest @ Home @ celluloid consommé
Asombrosa Elisa (Amazing Elisa)
Representation is a double-edged sword. Not always, but in Sadrac González-Perellón’s Asombrosa Elisa the knife finds a way to cut in more ways than one. Elisa is a 12-year old girl who is convinced she has superpowers. Obsessed with “Amazing Beatriz,” her favorite comic book hero, she frequently makes comparisons between her own abilities and Beatriz. The film splits into multiple chapters and an epilogue as well as frames its story in classic academy (1.37:1) ratio which feels more like the comic book Elisa believes she’s in.
The film jumps between Elisa as she navigates life without her mother, and Úrsula, a paraplegic who lives with her painter husband and her caretaker in a giant condominium on the top floor of the same building. Elisa’s arc takes a turn towards revenge, inspired by the comic book story she reads incessantly to cope with her loss. Images and sequences of her revenge fantasy pepper the events of her life as influences of Úrsula’s loneliness and discontent add to the unconscious tracing of fictional Beatriz’s exploits of wielding vigilante justice against those who violate her and her Rottweiler sidekick. At first they take the form of scenes within the comic, then evolve into a processing of events and desires to right the wrongs committed against both Elisa and Úrsula. It forms a relationship of kinship in the viewer, which make their arcs unique in that they both act upon the consequences in near opposite directions.
The acting in Amazing Elisa is nothing short of electric, sorrow soaking through every frame and longing existing just outside of it. Héctor, Úrsula’s husband, paints a portrait of her to put as a large piece in his gallery opening, and at her request he promises to not include the wheelchair she is now confined to. Estrangement is an emerging theme for Héctor & Úrsula and is best exemplified in the moment she lays eyes on the painting of herself. The film takes many unconventional routes through the reasons for vengeance but each swing it takes results in a bizarrely provocative manner that elicits emotions other straightforward revenge narratives never entirely broach.
It’s easy to paint an image of regret or lack of control in the midst of or in the aftermath of such an event but what Amazing Elisa does differently here has the power to astound completely. In some ways it’s a meditation on revenge while actually following the act of it, bringing to mind Nicolas Cage’s journey in Sarnoski’s Pig but writ more large in its immediacy. With striking visuals, cinematography and an underlying malignancy to its writing Asombrosa Elisa is easily the best so far of the festival and not to be missed for its truly evocative techniques, both behind and in front of the camera.