Erendira (film)

Erendira is a 1983 drama film directed by Ruy Guerra. The film script was written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The original script actually preceded his novella The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Erendira and Her Heartless Grandmother published in 1972. The characters of Erendira and her grandmother had already appeared briefly in his book One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967). Garcia Marquez' recreated the screenplay from memory (the original was lost) for Guerra's film. Guerra incorporated elements from another Garcia Marquez story ("Death Constant Beyond Love") to meet his narrative needs in the subplot of Senator Onesimo Sanchez.

The film was an international coproduction involving Mexico, France and West Germany. It was shot in Spanish on locations in San Luis Potosi, Veracruz, Zacatecas and in studios in Mexico. It was entered into the 1983 Cannes Film Festival and was selected as the Mexican entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 56th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.

Erendira, a teenaged girl, lives with her eccentric grandmother in a vast, gloomy house in a windswept desert region. Exploited by her grandmother, Erendira must work all day long doing house chores, until she sleepwalks due to exhaustion. The heartless grandmother lives in her own world, talking to herself and crying uncontrollably over sentimental French songs. One day Erendira is so tired from all the work that she falls sleep without extinguishing the candles. The curtains catch fire accidentally, burning the house down to the foundation walls.

Having calculated the debt Erendira owes her for the destruction of her home and belongings, the grandmother decides the only way the girl will be able to repay such a vast amount is by prostituting herself. Erendira submits to her fate without protest and the grandmother does not waste any time trading Erendira's virginity to a local merchant for 250 pesos and three days' provisions for their trip. When Erendira resists, the man slaps and rapes her.

Erendira and her grandmother subsequently travel through the desert while the young girl sells her body to countless men - peasants, Indians, humble workers, soldiers and the smugglers that populate the region. The grandmother collects the money, makes all the decisions, and pays the Indian servants. As the business prospers it achieves carnivalesque proportions: the two women are joined by hangers-on, vendors, musicians, and a mysterious photographer.

One day, having had sex with an army of soldiers, Erendira falls sick and the line of men waiting outside her tent is dismissed. Then, Ulises, the young son of a smuggler traveling through the region, sneaks into the tent after the old woman has gone to sleep. Erendira finds him charming; she charges him for her services and teaches him how to make love. By the next morning Ulises has fallen in love with her.

En route from one town to the next, a group of monks take Erendira away from the grip of her grandmother, sending her to their mission in the desert until she marries. Undaunted, the grandmother hires a Mexican peasant boy to marry Erendira and thus gets her granddaughter back in the same old rut. To undermine any further attempts by the priests to confiscate her money-making resource, the grandmother must obtain a letter from someone important testifying to her granddaughter's high moral character. The grandmother sends Erendira to Senator Onesimo Sanchez, a man dying of some mysterious disease. The crafty woman locks a chastity belt on Erendira, which the Senator discovers cannot be unlocked until he writes the letter.

The grandmother's business suffers a second setback when Ulises reappears and persuades Erendira to run off with him. His plan is to live off a fortune from oranges which contain diamonds smuggled by his Dutch father. The young couple heads for the border in a truck the boy has stolen from his father. Finally caught, Erendira watches from the halted truck as her lover suffers a whipping from his father. The grandmother, preventing a new escape attempt, chains her granddaughter to the bed. However, angry prostitutes, bereft of business because Erendira is in town, march to their competitor's tent and haul the young woman out of it over the old woman's curses.

By now the Grandmother is quite wealthy. She and Erendira live in a large tent beside the sea, furnished even more grandly than the lost desert home. The old woman plays her piano, bathes, and gives orders to her now hardened charge. Realizing that only her grandmother's death would free her, Erendira pushes Ulises to kill the old woman. Ulises first two attempts on her life by poisoning and an explosive are unsuccessful. Finally, goaded by Erendira, he picks up a kitchen knife and stabs the old woman in the back. With his grandmother's death, Erendira's palm suddenly acquires lines. She picks up her grandmother's vest of gold and runs off into the desert, leaving Ulises behind in tears. "No voice on earth could stop me," Erendira tells us in a voice over as she disappears into the desert. "And no trace of my misfortune was ever found."