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Claudia Llosa


Claudia Llosa




















Magaly Solier:


Marino Ballón:


Susi Sánchez:


María del Pilar Guerrero:


Delci Heredia:


Efraín Solís:



The Milk of Sorrow
La teta asustada, Spain/Perù 2009

The Milk of sorrow won the Golden Bear at the 2009 Berlin International Film Festival and was nominated as best foreign language film at the 2010 Oscars. This film was written and directed by Peruvian Claudia Llosa and its plot circles around the folk belief that pain can infect breast milk and be passed on to the baby as an illness. The main character of the film is Fausta, a young girl who lives in a shantytown just outside Lima and who inherited this «illness» from her mother who was raped during the civil war in the eighties. This is known as «the milk of fear» a rather evocative and explicative adaptation of the original «teta asustada» (literally «the boob of fear») which is the original title of the film. When her mother dies, Fausta would like to giver her a decent funeral but all the money the family owns is spent for the upcoming wedding of her cousin Maxima. Since her uncle Don Lucido wants the woman’s body to be buried before the wedding, Fausta is forced to overcome all her fears and find herself a job as a maid for a pianist. Bit by bit, Fausta will have to face the world she lives in and become more aware of herself.

Let’s get to the Italian dubbing of the film. On the whole, I think it is a good version both as regards the dialogues and the dubbing and dubbing direction. There are some weaknesses that one must consider however and that will influence the marks I will give to the dialogues and dubbing direction. I appreciated the linguistic contrast between small-town folk, with a very low socio-cultural background, and the people who belong to an upper class of the population: think about the contrast between Fausta’s uncle and a doctor at the hospital in Lima or even consider the scenes with Fausta and Aida, the piano player.

All characters seem to be very well linguistically outlined and this is not just the result of correct linguistic choices but also of the great interpretation of the voice actors. In order to create differences between characters with different social classes, rather than opt for an unlikely regional accent, which wouldn’t have been such a great idea, the dubbing director chose to focus on actors’ interpretations, which I think were flawless. Cristiana Rossi was excellent in giving an intense interpretation of Magaly Solier, who was Fausta, and she is absolutely excellent in one particular situation. I’m referring to the scene in which the godmother, Fina, welcomes Fausta for the first time in the house of her employer. Aurora Cancian is so good that her interpretation almost makes the annoying repetition of the word «Figlia», pass unnoticed.

The Italian adaptation of allocutions that are common in the Hispanic speaking world, such as «Hija» and «Hijo» is probably the weakest part of the dialogues. We must say that this decision could have been due to obvious synch difficulties that may not have given any other chance. Also, the choice to use expressions like «Figlia» or «Figlia mia» can be a useful strategy to locally connote characters. Nevertheless, these expressions are not so common in Italian and do not seem very natural, so I think they could have used them less. In the scene mentioned for instance, in which Fina is often with her back turned or off-screen, it would have been quite easy to avoid «Figlia» on many occasions. At the end of the same scene, Fina says «la signora si può disamorare» and this really seems too Spanish. The same goes for «Voglia dio che non me lo violentino» in which «Voglia dio», which is still too Spanish, is however suitable said by that particular character. The marriage vow is also too Spanish but this may be due to synchronization problems: we have «Sì, lo accettiamo» and «Sì, li accettiamo» in the scene in which various couples get married at the same time. «Accettiamo» almost seems to be the twin of the terrible «Lo voglio» which is too English and is a dubbese torment that we will not be getting rid of very easily.

All allocutions are translated well. I think dialogue writers made an excellent decision when they decided to keep the polite form “lei” with which Fausta refers to her uncle. It may seem unusual initially but it is very useful to give a better picture of Fausta’s weird character. I appreciated the decision to keep distances between Fausta and her uncle also in the Italian version even more because at the end of the film, she starts to come out of her shell and talks to her uncle with the informal form “tu” as if to show that she has overcome all her fears. It is obvious that something in her is changing and the first clue is given to us by how she talks to Don Lucido. I believe the feeling that the use of the polite form could have given the viewer was well appreciated at the end when Fausta switches and tries to open up to life.

I would also like to point out other decisions made that I completely agree with. In the scene where the cousins introduce themselves to Don Lucido to officially ask for Maxima’s hand, I think that choices like «maritarsi» and “aiutino» are very suitable. I also agree with the choice to maintain the local currency, «soles» without translating it to «soli». This is a rather common praxis now in dubbing. Correct and unavoidable was the decision not to dub the songs but to subtitle them. Some songs in fact, among which Il canto di Paloma (Italian title of the film) are in Spanish, while others are in local dialect and translating them all in Italian would have caused a linguistic flattening that is not part of the original version. Furthermore, Magaly Solier is very touching when she sings so subtitling the songs was a good solution. We mustn’t forget that the song at the beginning of the film, sung by the mother, belongs to Peruvian folk belief and “ancestral” convictions that are very strong on that territory. There are many references to earth and plants: Fausta even turned her body into ground by putting a potato in her vagina that then sprout.

I will conclude with some technical considerations. I do not agree with the decision not to dub noises and voices in the background. Although viewers can’t always understand the Spanish in the background they can still hear it and the trick of dubbing risks giving itself away. We could say that since Spanish is similar to Italian nobody will notice: I noticed it though. The film is well adapted and directed so I wonder why they opted for this bad solution. I am aware that many would consider this a technical matter that is not very important but I think it is. We even have a scene in which Fausta is in the kitchen watching TV while listening absent-mindedly to Aida the pianist while she is speaking. The TV is in the background for the whole duration of the scene until it is suddenly close up: not dubbing the noises would have been a mistake but luckily they did. So why not do the same for those background voices?


[original review in Italian by Giuseppe De Bonis]


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