A Film For September: The Headless Women

The film begins with a group of children playing on their bikes by a road. Later the same day elegant, middle aged Verónica (Maria Onetto), is seen driving along a deserted road when her phone rings, looking down at it she hits something in the road, bangs her head and suffers mild concussion. We follow her as she gets treatment and we see that she is having a relationship with someone other than her husband. So far, so simple.

But as the days go by with her family and extended family her emotional realities of everyday life start to become a bit hazy. Gradually all her activities from the previous day seem to disappear and under intense observation we watch as her grip on reality starts to unravel. Did she hit a dog or was it worse, was it a child? And this we don’t know, from the opening scene of the children playing it’s a possibility. And is her detachment from her world purely the result of the concussion or is it also guilt? Because of her affair, or is there more for her to feel guilty about? Verónica’s murky, disoriented mindset is portrayed as dreamlike and foggy as her paranoia makes her increasingly isolated.

Written and directed by Lucrecia Martel and co-produced by Pedro and Agustin Almodóvar, this is a very slow paced study of a life becoming detached from the world as she deals with the psychological aftermath of an accident.

Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian said it was ‘a masterly, disturbing and deeply mysterious film about someone who strenuously conceals from herself the knowledge of her own guilt.’ But Kevin Maher in The Sunday Times said: ‘The pacing is so leaden, and the direction so heavy-handed, that it’s fundamentally hard to care.’ And I’m somewhere in the middle.

There were a lot of details that I missed and it’s the sort of film that will definitely get better with each view, but for a first viewing I struggled to care enough about her to give it the attention it needs. But I haven’t given up on it – given the right time I would watch it again and try and find out what I was missing.

7 thoughts on “A Film For September: The Headless Women

  1. I think I’ll wait and see if your second visit results in an updated ‘rave review’. I’m quite intrigued by the concept, but it sounds like something I’d like to be quite short…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is quite short, just over an hour I think – on Amazon. I think it might be one of those films that benefits from knowing a bit about it before watching, I’d love to know what you think!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the ambiguity of this film but can see how others might find it somewhat slow and detached. Have you seen any of this director’s other films? I’ve seen some very good reviews for Zama, another film that sounds rather dreamlike and mysterious…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t seen any others but I am intrigued by her and would like to watch some more. My daughter (who made the list for me) says we need to look at the detachment as a commentary on colonialism, and I do think I would have made a better hash of it if I had researched it first. Her film are very highly acclaimed.


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