A piece of technology in the movie “Gloria” delivers a wake-up call.
Every now and then I like to go see a foreign film, kind of to get in touch with reality. They often seem to be more down-to-earth, the pace a little mundane at times like life is, and the women not so done up. Sometimes they really alter one’s perspective. This happened in “Gloria,” a movie made in Chile starring Paulina García. Produced in Spanish with subtitles, it delivered a wake-up call, perhaps unwittingly, through a piece of technology.
I didn’t realize this until later. Usually I kind of forget movies, but this one lingered on in my mind, perhaps because the perspective was so geared to the feminine. Gloria is a middle-aged divorcée, a career woman and mother of two adult children who goes alone to bars at night where singles dance and drink and find each other. Gloria is charming, very likable, and also very sexual.
Drama develops when Gloria meets Rodolfo and falls in love with him. However, he is reluctantly in constant contact with his dependent ex-wife and two grown daughters. We learn that he was once morbidly obese and has had gastric surgery. He wears a corset-like device to hold him together, and perhaps this is symbolic. His expression is one of constant anxiety.
I had this “Oh, dear” feeling from their first meeting. What Gloria sees in Rodolfo is hard to say. Maybe it is what he sees in her, a cautionary principle.
Paulina García is 53 and has a very nice figure, but I would have been just as happy with more of the sexual activity hidden under the sheets. Well, maybe not. I had the feeling that I was watching from her bedroom closet, and that created a sense of intimacy that endured throughout the movie.
But on to the role of the smart phone, the technology I referred to in the beginning. It is the means by which Rodolfo’s wife and daughters constantly ply him with their dependency. Gloria also has one, and on a number of occasions, she tries to contact her two grown children by phone but has to leave messages, and you know she’s being ignored. These devices allow us all to be connected but also easily avoided.
At a family birthday party to which Gloria has invited Rodolfo, the phone violates a relationship. Gloria’s daughter is in love with a Swede and will soon leave Chile to live with him. She has shared with her mother a beautiful, romantic text message from the young man. After much wine, Gloria induces her daughter to read the message to everyone present.
So the ardent expression of love that might once have been written in a letter to be privately treasured for a lifetime is broadcast. Gloria’s ex-husband is present, and so is Rodolfo’s ex-wife in the smart phone in his pocket. It is the birthday of Gloria’s son, and he is estranged from the mother of his child. Failed relationships are everywhere. It seems likely that the daughter’s partnership will also fail, the young man’s texted ardor sullied by sharing and doomed to disappear in cyberspace. Feeling left out, Rodolfo leaves the party with no notice, and Gloria cannot reach him by phone.
As the movie progresses, the smart phone in Rodolfo’s pocket continually intrudes on his time with Gloria. He is connected to his ex-wife and daughters through it as surely as though a hanging cord leads all the way to the front door of the handsome home he maintains for them.
I was ready for the relationship to crash by the time Gloria makes one last effort to capture Rodolfo. On a romantic weekend retreat, she strips of all but her blouse and rides him on the couch with determined sensuality as he writhes among the cushions in aged ecstasy.
The situation looks hopeful over the ensuing dinner. However, the smart phone vibrates one time too many, and Gloria playfully but pointedly drops it into Rodolfo’s soup. He leaves, presumably to clean it off, but he never returns.
Now as the story moves toward climax, Gloria uses her smart phone to ignore Rodolfo, who calls again and again to try to repair their relationship. I could do some back-fill here to explain how this comes about, but she eventually shoots him with a paint gun and proceeds to reclaim her youthful spirit at friends’ post-wedding party.
There were only five women in the audience, including my two friends and I. We really enjoyed the movie and had a lively conversation over dinner afterward. “Gloria” is probably not the kind of movie a man would like, and there were things about it that made me think, “Well, maybe it’s time to take up knitting.” However, the mere fact that my friends and I had so much fun with it would suggest otherwise.
As I drove home, I thought about my cell phone in a handy, Zip-Lok bag in my purse. I finally put that Android I bought back in its box in the cabinet. I ended up really hating the thing and all that swiping around to make something happen. The cell phone is my emergency phone, and I don’t even know how to text. The thing is, I don’t really like being all that connected. It interferes with paying attention and thinking.
I read the other day that Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook is betting that phone calls are moving toward obsolescence as short messages sent from mobile devices ascend toward dominance. That’s kind of scary. It suggests that the rush toward the abbreviated will eventually impair our ability to communicate with one another at a deep level. It may also impair our willingness to spend any time at all with the thoughtful, written word.
One can live chapters in many fictional lives and learn the wisdom of the ages through books. What happens to the human brain, to civilization, if we lose patience with and appetite for this activity?
Gloria’s search for love probably resonates to a degree with all women. However, I would like to imagine that she achieves balance by tucking in every now and then with a fictional man in a really, really good book and practices a form of attentive fidelity by turning her smart phone off.
And I just looked up Mark Zuckerberg. He is going to be 30 on May 14. One wonders if someone that young should have the power he does to shape the future. I guess we’ll see.