March 26, 2010

Merry Christmas (Lucho Bender, 2000)

It is interesting to see this movie close to the holidays as it deals with Christmas and its ideals. One Christmas Eve in Buenos Aires, several lives intersect as they all strive not to spend the holidays alone. The theme of loneliness permeates the film – and is represented the most strongly by the paralyzed man – and constantly comes back to the forefront in this often comedic, heartwarming take on Christmas.

Merry Christmas presents an interesting perspective on the meaning of the Holidays, of Christmas. As a Christian holiday, it reminds them of Jesus’ sacrifice, a figure to model, to aspire to. As a pagan creation, Santa Claus still epitomizes those values, rewarding good deeds by gifts on Christmas day. In the movie, some characters choose to be charitable and giving while others act cruel and selfish. A young man rewards his benefactor who was driving him to Buenos Aires by setting off on his own to the city and stranding him in the middle of nowhere without gas. The old man dies, alone and far from his daughter, while the young man leaves him to be with his family. When a stranger helps the wheelchair-bound Hector to his fifth floor apartment, Hector doesn’t seem to want him to leave and comes up with an excuse every time. Talking about his fish, he projects unto it his feelings of loneliness:

Hector: Poor thing. He's all alone. I'll have to find him a friend.

The stranger soon abandons Hector, obviously in need of camaraderie, for a sexual encounter.

There seems to be this constant battle between human values and human needs (or wants) throughout the film, a dichotomy that seemingly echoes the continuous clash between local culture and world culture, between Argentinean traditions and North American ones present in the film. Indians sing Christmas carols in their native tongues on a truck headed for Buenos Aires. A man aims to buy a robot that spurts smoke from its head, the IT toy for Christmas, sold-out everywhere. American hegemony is constantly present and seems to dictate, all through the movie, to these characters their feelings about Christmas.

But, life goes on. At the movie’s end, we realize that the old man died alone but simultaneously, a new life is born. The comedian, stuck without gas in the middle of nowhere, gives the movie its finality; admiring the fireworks from Buenos Aires, he smiles and rejoices because he is alive. And isn’t life the greatest gift of all?