A Pretty Cage Is Still a Cage

         In the 1954 film Los Abismos de Pasion, directed by Luis Buńuel, the main characters, Catalina and Alejandro, as played by Iraseme Dilian and Jorge Mistral, are closer to Emily Brontë’s 1847 written version of Wuthering Heights than the 1939 William Wyler film. This is no sweeping love story. This film is a short trip into obsessive love that can only end in tragedy. Many people will be hurt, but it does not matter to Catalina and Alejandro. Their love rages on like a force of nature that cannot be stopped or controlled. Alejandro is dark and brooding. Even his declarations of love have an undercurrent of sinister intent. Catalina is cruel and sarcastic; she is so sure of the love of Alejandro and her husband, Eduardo, that she taunts and teases each one without mercy. Catalina disguises her cruel taunts as blunt honesty; her words draw blood.

         At the very beginning of the film, Catalina is cooing to her pet bird, which is kept in a cage. She keeps saying over and over that the little bird loves her even though she keeps him caged. This scene is perfect symbolism of her relationship with Alejandro. Catalina has caged Alejandro with her obsessive, all consuming love. She cannot let him go; she loves him too much. Alejandro is caged by her love; he cannot get to Catalina to love her as a man loves a woman. He is caged by society and Catalina’s inflated ego and self-grandiose nature. Catalina throws Alejandro’s low birth at him and calls him cruel and uncivilized. Her world is perfect, she has Alejandro’s love, caged up, and he cannot escape or love another woman. Alejandro plays with Isabella, Catalina’s sister-in-law, teasing her and kissing her in front of Catalina. This show of independence from Alejandro is met with taunting laughter and indifference.

         Catalina however is free to love and marry anyone she chooses. She has married a wealthy man who loves her very much, but she still cannot let Alejandro go. He is her pet, trapped in a cage. Catalina gives Alejandro attention when it is convenient for her. I do not think that she has every truly loved Alejandro. Their relationship has been obsession, not love.

         Even from beyond the grave, Catalina still has Alejandro in a cage. After her death, Alejandro cannot escape from her. She still controls him. Alejandro has been in the cage for so long, that he cannot live outside of it. He cannot live without her; in the end, she is the one who lures him to his death. It is fitting that at his death, Alejandro is draped across Catalina’s coffin.

Lisa Kell

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