With widening ever-luminous eyes, the film’s eponymous Carmen (played by actress Natascha McElhone) listens intently in the cramped box that encloses her. She is listening to a young woman’s angelic rendition of Ave Maria…
It’s not just any old box that Carmen is stuffed into.
This is the confessional in the church from which her recently deceased priest brother lorded over his entire flock, and especially her. It’s the perfect place for Carmen to vent the feelings she has pent up for decades, coming out in the form of sage advice to her fellow villagers seeking to confess their sins. With her identity hidden in the anonymity of the confessional, she doles out recipes for life changes that make any other Dear Abby seem minor league. For this songstress, for example, Carmen instructs her on how to find the key to the offerings box, take the proceeds, hop on the next bus to Rome, and just sing until she is discovered.
Not by this point in the film, where we have traveled from what we might mistakenly note as a typical Inspired by True Events disclaimer at a film’s start, to a pile-on of plot turns that are simultaneously plausible and unlikely but always delightful, in this writer’s view.
For most of us, it might be the scenery of the Maltese island where this story unfolds that first lends it a fairy tale atmosphere. Blue Mediterranean waters surround the island — waters that seem cleaner than is possible in modern memory. On ground level, the sand-colored stone of churches, streets, and courtyards has a timeless feel. From the aerial view, the island’s dramatic seaside cliffs seem to expand back in time, much as the Catholic Church traditions that are integral to the story.
CARMEN is a Woman-Finding-Her-Power Story
We travel with Carmen through these settings and then follow her each night when she returns to her church home of many years, but now as a stowaway trying to catch some shut eye. Not a coming-of-age story but rather a coming-into-her-power story that will likely similarly tickle all feminist-inclined. From drab garb and demeanor to grey-hiding colored hair and bright red dresses and flirting with the affections of a much younger man, we want to shout, Go Girl Go!
Carmen will especially appeal to those who look for talented cinematography to give them the equivalent of passport-free travel to picturesque terrain.
Don’t just expect a fairy tale ending for Carmen. Do expect a feel-good fairy tale ending for just about everyone in the village. The Carmen we have come to know in just 88 minutes time would have it no other way.
Writer/Director - Valerie Buhagiar
Natascha McElhone, Steven Love, Michela Farrugia
Producers - Pierre Ellul, Coral Aiken, Anika Psaila Savona
Exec Producers - Daniel Bekerman, Dorothy Coetzee, José Luis Escolar, Mark Gingras
Director of Photography - Diego Guijarro
Editors - Matt Lyon, Peter Strauss
Production Designer - Sandra Smirle
Sound Designer - Joe Mancuso
Composer - Richard Feren
Malta, Canada- 2022, 88 minutes, in English and Maltese.
For more information on how to watch the film visit the official CARMEN website.
Images courtesy of CARMEN
About the Author: Amy Munice
Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.
Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.