Review: A virxe roxa
- The tragic killing of Hildegart Rodríguez at the hands of her mother Aurora takes the form of experimental true crime in Marcos Nine’s film, which sheds light on a dark and little-known past
The tragic story of Aurora Rodríguez and her daughter Hildegart proves there is some truth in that hackneyed saying that reality is stranger than fiction. Perhaps that’s why it has already formed the core of various works, including the movie My Daughter Hildegart, directed by Fernando Fernán Gómez with a screenplay penned by Rafael Azcona, and the novel Frankenstein’s Mother by Almudena Grandes, who passed away recently. Even so, one can’t help but feel as though the misfortunes of these two women are not as well known as they should be. That’s what producer Amalia Mato must have thought when she decided to team up with director Marcos Nine to breathe life into A virxe roxa, an experimental documentary that took part in the most recent edition of the Seminci and served as the opening film of the sixth Novos Cinemas Festival in Pontevedra.
In June 1933, when Aurora Rodríguez shot her 18-year-old daughter Hildegart to death, it profoundly shook the whole of Spanish society. In almost no time at all, Hildegart had become a standard-bearer for the left wing at the time. Her forward-thinking, feminist ideals were expressed in numerous publications and had a major impact, to the extent that they piqued the interest of intellectuals of the likes of HG Wells. However, Hildegart’s very existence was a plan dreamed up by her mother Aurora, and when the latter felt as though she was losing control over her most prized possession, she decided to kill her.
Nine’s film is a perfectly calculated piece of machinery, in which the testimonies of experts, images from films from the early 20th century and illustrations by visual artist Alberto Taracido combine to create a hypnotic whole. Far from revelling in the seedier parts of the story, the movie attempts to be a wide-ranging portrait of a whole era, aiming to explain the senselessness of what happened. And so the film whisks us away to Ferrol at the end of the 19th century, a city that is prosperous but also in upheaval. It is here where Aurora was born, an intelligent and ambitious woman who was never able to find the rewards she deserved in such an old-fashioned society. Her frustration at not seeing her aspirations fulfilled and the boom in theories such as eugenics convinced her that the task of changing the destiny of Spanish society was in her hands – thus she gave birth to the woman who would be capable of transforming the country forever.
Enhanced by the narration of Antonio Durán “Morris”, and the performances of actresses María Vázquez and Nerea Barros (who give voice to the thoughts of the two protagonists in some of the scenes), the film masterfully manages to immerse us in the manner in which an entire society understood the world. At the same time, the movie enables us to see how these modes of thinking were able to govern the psyche of a brilliant but alienated woman. And in the middle of all this stands the figure of Hildegart, a woman who is striking on account of how visionary her ideas were and how young she attained excellence. In the end, what we are left with is pure emotion and shock after having witnessed a painful story and its most intimate details, which is all the more tragic because of its more far-reaching implications. The lives of Aurora and Hildegart form an ill-fated portrait that serves as a reflection of a chauvinistic and reactionary society, which is directly responsible for so many other dark and wretched stories that should already be part of our past.
A virxe roxa was produced by Recrea Films.
(Translated from Spanish)
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