Death-obsessed Violeta Went to Heaven Does the Chilean Singer a Disservice
Violeta Went to Heaven's creators do a disservice to Chilean singer and multi-hyphenate artist Violeta Parra's legacy by making her suicide the logical climax to her working life. Because Parra (Francisca Gavilán) killed herself at age 49, and her work was a reflection of her struggles as an impoverished bohemian, director Andrés Wood (Machuca) and screenwriter Eliseo Altunaga's miserablist adaptation of Parra's memoirs is death-obsessed, and it characterizes Parra as a mercurial talent with no sense of propriety. Speaking of her lover and artistic collaborator Gilbert Favre (Thomas Durand), Parra matter-of-factly tells her daughter, "I just want to get him into bed, and suck all of his juices." Parra's also characterized as a stubborn autodidact who demanded her patrons' complete attention. At a reception at the Louvre, Parra pitches a fit when wealthy socialites gossip rather than focus on her musical performance. These loosely organized narrative episodes, related during a TV interview where Parra is asked to take stock of her career, conflate the artist's creative frustrations with her self-destructive personality. At the same time, watching Parra repeatedly freak out concerned loved ones by pretending to be dead wouldn't be as frustrating if she weren't also constantly explaining her worldview through blunt expository dialogue, as when she chides an aspiring artist by saying, "You sing where they want you to sing." By inexpertly filtering her art through her travails, Wood and Altunaga reimagine Parra's suicide as an explicable conclusion to her turbulent life.
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.