Saturday, February 25, 2023

Women Talking (The Movie)


"If God is a loving God, then he will forgive us himself. 

If God is a vengeful God, then he has created us in his image."

Women Talking is a 2022 American film, nominated for Best Picture, based on a 2018 book, itself inspired by actual events that had transpired at a remote and isolated Mennonite religious community in Bolivia. The opposite of an action movie, this film features almost all talk - serious talk among the afflicted women of the community about what to do when confronted with monstrous evil and how to reconcile responding to the evil with the received requirements of their faith, within which forgiveness may sadly be confused with and interpreted as permission.

The viewer enters the story in medias res, so to speak, requiring either pre-knowledge of the plot or intense attention and interpretation. The actual historical background involves a series of horrific events in the years 2005-2009, when 150 women and young girls in the community (called the "colony" throughout the movie) were apparently drugged and raped by men of the community. One of the men was caught in the act, and the crime was reported to the Bolivian authorities. A trial followed in which eight of the men were sentenced to 25 years in prison.

In the movie, it is 2010. Most of the men of the colony are away (apparently to post bail). The women have been left behind and have two days to decide whether to stay and forgive the men, to stay and "fight," or to leave. The heart of the film is thus an intense debate among 11 leading women of the colony to decide this. In the end, they decide to leave - for the safety of their children, to remain steadfast in their pacifist faith, and to be able to think for themselves.

The discussions that lead to their decision are the dramatic heart of the film. They are emotionally intense, as one would expect, and intellectually intense as well, which stands out that much more against the structural background of the women's lack of education. (The women don't know how to read, but, as the narrator boldly expresses it, "that day we learned how to vote.")

Visually, the film is bare and stark. The drama is all in the discussion - the "women talking" - as the women come to a new consciousness by means of deliberation and debate. The women represent several different generations of experience, and the wisdom gained by experience, refined through the crucible of intense suffering and a struggle with religious faith.

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