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Carmen is the feature film debut of Benjamin Millepied and adapted from the 1845 novella that was written by Prosper Mérimée. The film stars Melissa Barrerra (Carmen) and Paul Mescal (Aiden). A woman named Carmen lives in the Chihuahuan Desert with her mother and very little is known about their lives. The narrator of the film poetically describes the trouble that men bring and how they take life away from women. Ironically, the narrator states that men take life away and Carmen’s mother ends up getting killed by the drug cartel for unknown reasons.
Carmen is forced to leave her home and cross the Mexican border with other immigrants. A former marine named Aiden volunteers to work a shift with border patrol and ends up finding Carmen as well as other immigrants hiding in the middle of the desert. His friend Mike is a trigger-happy border patrol officer that inhumanely guns down immigrants. Aiden reacts by killing Mike and escapes with Carmen in a truck.
Aiden and Carmen go on an unexpected adventure in order to avoid the police at all costs. The couple find shelter in a Los Angeles nightclub. The club owner Masilda (Rossy De Palma) was a good friend of Carmen’s mother and told her that she could stay as long as she wished. Masilda also told Carmen that her mother was always with her in spirit and that she must heal herself through dance or song. I agree with Masilda because I do believe that the passions we immerse ourselves in heal so many parts of ourselves that we did not realize needed healing.
If there is one thing I have learned from this film, it is that even in the most arid desert, love can definitely blossom. Carmen and Aiden’s love for each other blossomed from the dry soil like a rose growing out of concrete. Their love bloomed in the most unexpected circumstances that involved fleeing the life they were forced to leave behind. One of the characters told Carmen to remember that the things we run away from are often the same things we are running towards. Sometimes we must leave certain aspects of our lives to attain greater things for ourselves and those around us.
This movie has a great way of storytelling without leaning on overexaggerated production elements like flashy special effects or costumes. Often times many films lose sight of what is important in the plot and the special effects overshadow the message of the story. The script is definitely poetic and lives up to the meaning behind Carmen’s name. Carmen means “song, truthful, and poetry” in Latin. The movie definitely includes three of those key elements in the plot.
In many ways, the film reminds me of West Side Story especially given that this movie’s plot is theatric and artistic. The choreography in Carmen is also similar to that movie in terms of how passion is expressed through movement. The plot in Carmen also involves an interracial couple which further reminds me of West Side Story. I also went into the theater half expecting the movie to be a musical similar to that production..
In comparison to most musicals, there is not as much singing in Carmen. I would not describe this film as a traditional musical even though there is a bit of singing and dancing. I will admit that some of the choreographed scenes seemed to drag on a bit too long for my tastes. I also found myself confused since some of the choreographed scenes were thrown into the plot with very little context. The transition with some of the dance scenes could have linked together a bit better. There were also two minor characters that I felt were not too relevant to the plot.
Lastly, I do wish that the movie went into more detail regarding the lives of the characters. However, it seems that it is left to one’s imagination. The script was beautifully written and I believe that this movie is very much worth the watch and is a heart-wrenching story about a timeless love. If I could, I would definitely like to watch it all over again.