I honestly don’t quite know what to make of Ruy Guerra’s peculiar film Eréndira (1983). The film itself has an odd history. Gabriel García Márquez wrote the story as a screenplay, then incorporated it into his book One Hundred Years of Solitude, and then recreated the screenplay from memory (the original was lost) for Guerra’s film. It’s the story of Eréndira (Claudia Ohana), a young woman who lives with her fantastic and fantastically demanding grandmother (Irene Pappas in a disturbing and disturbingly funny performance)—and their pet ostrich—in a weird house in the desert that the wind seems to blow through as if across an open plain. When Eréndira accidentally burns the place down, the grandmother decides that the only way the girl can possibly pay her back (“Your life will not be long enough to repay me”) is to pimp the kid out—and that’s exactly what she does on an ever grander scale.
Trading Eréndira’s virginity for 250 pesos and three days’ provisions is just a start. Soon grandma takes Eréndira on the road in a kind of tent-show traveling whorehouse, which in itself starts attracting other money-making concerns so that the enterprise turns into a very weird carnival-like affair. And that’s just the casually surreal setup. The overall film feels a bit like Buñuel and a bit like Jodorowsky, but it’s not really like either one. It lacks Buñuel’s sense of satire and social outrage, and there’s little of Jodorowsky’s casual cruelty here. Instead, Guerra’s film is more like a wickedly comical, heavily sexualized, truly warped fairy tale. I don’t know if I’d exactly say I liked it, but it’s too fascinating to dismiss, too interestingly made to ignore—and certainly not something I’ll soon forget.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke