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Flores de Otro Mundo’ goes beyond typical foreign fare

Michelle Fordice | Monday, March 6, 2006

“Flores de Otro Mundo”, or “Flowers From Another World,” addresses racism, the difficulties in the search for companionship and the meaning of family through the lens of a small rural village in Spain. Despite these heavy underlying themes, director and writer Icíar Bollaín still allows the film a realistic balance with a little humor, sweetness and hope.

As the opening credits roll, a bus packed with laughing and talkative women travels across the Spanish countryside towards a secluded village. What are they looking for? Men, of course. A rural town with a disproportionate number of eligible bachelors is hosting a get-together in the hopes of ceasing their sexual frustration and loneliness by finding themselves companions among the women who have just arrived. By the end of the first dance, several couples have paired off.

Rich middle-age construction worker Carmelo has brought a beautiful Cuban girl Milady primarily in the hopes that she will meet his physical needs. Milady sees Carmelo as a way out of Cuba and into a life of more luxury, but her social personality and emotions make her reluctant to finally commit to a life that is better, but not necessarily the one she wants. Dominican Patricia veers away from the men who see her primarily as a sex object and comes to Damián, an unassuming and quiet man, whom she hopes can become a father to her two children. But Patricia is haunted by both her past and her struggles with Damián’s domineering and disapproving mother. Finally, Marirosi and Alfonso begin a sweet courtship, but the long distance nature of their relationship and Marirosi’s ties back to the city prevent them from taking further steps.

From the first lines of dialogue to the final moments of the movie, strains of racism prevent any chances of “Flores de Otro Mundo” from becoming a simple romance. The women on the bus are not there simply because they are hoping for a romantic fling, but rather because they need Spanish husbands who will protect them from the constant demand for identification papers that relentlessly debilitates their lives. However, these women are often seen as sex objects because of both their gender and their ethnicity.

“Flores de Otro Mundo” is also a statement about the human need for companionship, particularly the relationship between a husband and wife. “Flores de Otro Mundo” often does this by painting all the wrong ways relationships can exist, but also through the great celebration that occurs when each bus full of women arrives – a band follows them as they are paraded through the streets and children look on them with amazement.

“Flores de Otro Mundo” also approaches the subject of family. The audience watches as

Patricia takes great risks for the sake of her children after their father left them and struggles with Damián’s mother, Milady longs for the family she tore herself away from for the chance of a better life and as people band together to make their own families, even if they aren’t actually related.

Despite its depressing themes, “Flores de otro mundo” does not devolve into melodrama and manages to remain a buoyant and enjoyable film. It is spiced with jokes (some dirty, some sweet) and an upbeat soundtrack. One cannot help but laugh at Milady’s interesting choice of fashion or the two old men that wander the village, watching the escapades of all the movie’s central couples, just waiting for something interesting to happen. Finally, “Flores de Otro Mundo” does not end without hope. Some things are left unfinished and some things are broken, but love has not disappeared.

Don’t let the subtitles and foreign setting scare you, the themes of “Flores de Otro Mundo” and facets of life it reveals are universal.