September 08, 2011

Hasta el viento tiene miedo (1968)

From its expressionist roots to the modern Asian-influenced movies, the history of Mexican horror cinema has had many ups and downs, and its relationship with the general public has been a troubled one to say the least. Often underestimated by both critics and audiences, this state of oblivion in which Mexican horror used to be resulted in many gems being forgotten or underrated. With one particular and quite outstanding exception: the work of director Carlos Enrique Taboada. Thanks to television, many generations of Mexicans were exposed to the two remarkable horror films that Taboada crafted during the 60s: "Hasta el viento tiene miedo" and "El Libro de Piedra", making them the first (and often only) exposure many had to the greatness of Mexican horror that was hidden behind the big amount of cheap wrestler films and schlocky science fiction movies. Released on 1968, "Hasta el viento tiene miedo" was the first horror film directed by Taboada, and the first in his thematic tetralogy of supernatural Gothic horror.

"Hasta el viento tiene miedo" (literally "Even the wind is afraid") takes place in a private all-girls boarding school, where young student Claudia (Alicia Bonet) begins to listen a mysterious female voice calling her in dreams, a voice that leads her to the school's clock tower. After one particularly frightening nightmare, Claudia's friends Kitty (Norma Lazareno), Ivetter (Renata Seydel), Liliana (Rita Marroquín), Marina (Irma Castillón) and Verónica (Lourdes Baledón) decide to enter the clock tower and discover what's inside. The tower is forbidden for students, but the six frightened girls enter anyways. Unfortunately for them, they are discovered by the strict headmistress Miss Bernarda (Marga López). Their punishment will be to remain at school during the summer, much to the displeasure of Kitty. And so, the gang remains in school with Miss Bernarda, the good-hearted teacher Lucía (Maricruz Olivier) and Josefina (Elizabeth Duperyón), a shy girl who prefers school to her troubled home. But the ghost still roams the place, and even the wind is afraid.

Long before writing "Haste el viento tiene miedo", Taboada had been a prolific author of serials and b-movies, many of them of the horror genre. However, while those films had a style akin to pulp fiction ("Orlak, el infierno de Frankenstein" and the "Nostradamus" films for example), in "Hasta el viento tiene miedo" Taboada takes a deeper, more serious approach to supernatural horror, closer in tone and structure to the Gothic literature of the 19th century. And so, classic elements of Gothic horror appear in the film, such as huge mansions in the dark, supernatural voices from the other world, vengeful ghosts, and a decidedly irreligious subtext. In "Hasta el viento tiene miedo", Taboada builds up a rich set of characters with remarkably well crafted dialogs that feel natural and appropriate, avoiding the artificial lines often given to teenage roles. However, the best thing about Taboada's screenplay is how it moves ambiguously creepy until the film's climatic turn of the screw, which paves the way for a superb finale.

However, the real magic of "Hasta el viento tiene miedo" lays on its craftsmanship, as Taboada achieves an ominous atmosphere of impending doom in every frame, that truly captures the very essence of the concept of "Gothic ghost story". Comparisons to Argento's "Suspiria" would be valid in terms of tone and atmosphere. Veteran cinematographer Agustín Jiménez achieves an ethereal atmosphere, giving life to Taboada's nightmare with a sobriety and class rarely seen in Mexican 60s cinema. In "Hasta el viento tiene miedo", Taboada unfolds the story with a slow pace, letting the mystery involve the characters, as the forces hidden in the school surround them. The wind blowing, as its title implies, plays an instrumental role in the overall effect, and tension is risen as the wind carries the words of the wailing ghost. And yet, the film is not without its soft side, and Taboada allows himself to explore the silliness, naiveté and cruelty of adolescence in several scenes that, while apparently trivial, actually serve to establish and strengthen the bond between the girls.

And of course, given that a lot of weight is placed on the building up of the characters, effective performances become important for the success of the film. Fortunately, "Hasta el viento tiene miedo" doesn't disappoint in this aspect, as the main roles are superbly played by the cast. As the hated headmistress Bernarda, actress Marga López showcases her strong presence and domain of the stage. López goes beyond the strict teacher stereotype and constructs a complex character who becomes the central piece of the film's climax. As her opposite, Maricruz Olivier plays the benevolent teacher Lucía with a touching subtlety that adds a lot of emphasis to the films' subtexts. Amongst the girls, Norma Lazareno is marvelous as the rebellious, stubborn Kitty, being the highlight of the young cast. As Claudia, Alicia Bonet is good, though certainly overshadowed by the imposing presence of Lazareno. The rest of the cast is just effective, and while a tad of hammy overacting can be felt at times, it's worthy to point out how natural the performances are for the most part.

Perhaps there is one exception, and that would be Elizabeth Duperyón's turn as the meek Josefina, whose performance is a bit weak, and fails to take advantage of the possibilities offered by her potentially interesting character. Nevertheless, perhaps the biggest problem "Hasta el viento tiene miedo" had was the low production values that Taboada had for its making. The evident limitations seem to hurt Taboada's ambitions, particularly when it comes to its location (everything looks and probably was done in a studio), though as written above, it is commendable the level of artistry that was achieved despite the obvious deficiencies. A highly idiosyncratic (though at times pretentious) author, Carlos Enrique Taboada was keen to include hidden subtexts in his works, and a film as personal as "Hasta el viento tiene miedo" is sure to have plenty. The most obvious one is the lesbian sexual innuendo that takes place in occasions, though Taboada handles the theme with great skill and ambiguity that it just adds to the overall tension felt through the film.

Perhaps the most famous Mexican horror film, "Hasta el viento tiene miedo" has remained popular amongst Mexican audiences through the years, and not just because of its exposition on TV. The reason of its fame is simply because it's a actually a remarkably good horror film by its own right. Owner of a haunting atmosphere, unforgettable characters and classy direction, Carlos Enrique Taboada's "Hasta el viento tiene miedo" is a superb introduction to the cream of the crop of Mexican horror cinema (the work of director Fernando Méndez would be a fitting next step). "Hasta el viento tiene miedo" was Taboada's first entry in his thematic tetralogy, which would be followed by the superior "El Libro de Piedra" (1969) and later "Más negro que la noche" (1975) and "Veneno para las Hadas" (1984). A Mexican Gothic classic.


1 comment:

Marlen said...

I so want to watch this! :)