“Bearing in mind the chaos theory and its butterfly effect, which means that the flapping of the wings of a butterfly could generate chaos on the other side of the planet, I thought of making a film where I would tell two versions of the same story. In this case, how a woman who’s about to abandon her daughter could change her mind,” Argentine filmmaker Marco Berger says about his latest feature.
Mariposa (Butterfly) is the name of the film, and at its very beginning we see a woman abandon her daughter in the forest. Then, in the following scene and because she is distracted by a butterfly, she decides not to abandon her child. This way, the woman’s daughter, Romina (Ailín Salas) sees her universe divided into two parallel and simultaneous realities.
In the first one, after being abandoned by her biological mother, Romina is raised by a loving family with a young man, Germán (Javier De Pietro) as her brother. Here fate determines that the two youngsters will build a relationship of love with a strong dose of forbidden sexual desire. In the alternate reality, Romina and German get to know each other as friends and develop an uncommon friendship instead of becoming romantically involved.
In these two worlds — one in the realm of comedy and the other in that of drama — new relationships will be formed as other players enter the arena with their own sexual desires, which will result in homoerotic bonds as well as heterosexual ones. Considering this multilayered scenario, it’s easy to see why Mariposa can be engaging almost instantly.
The script is well written and detailed, it deftly deals with both worlds, has a right balance between naturalism and fantastique, and is executed quite meticulously. And as it plays out, Berger’s camera closely follows the characters and by focusing on details and small gestures, both in the dialogue and body language, characters are gradually developed and efficiently rendered thanks to correct performances.
But only to a certain extent. Because after the maze-like script is unveiled and you pretty much know how upcoming events will unfold, you may feel that most of the film’s appeal starts to vanish. The script is smart,granted, and yet the characters lack substance. They act and react according to the script’s requirements, but they also often come across as chess pieces that follow a pattern dictated by a player’s given logic.
It’s hard to picture them as real individuals affected and transformed by their conflicts. It’s hard to relate to them for they are narrative devices more than anything else. Therefore, Mariposa is what you may call an exercise in style, and certainly not a feature with flesh and blood. Plus it lacks tension from beginning to end — no matter how well-filmed it is.
Mariposa (Argentina, 2015) Written and directed by Marco Berger. With Ailín Salas, Javier De Pietro, Julián Infantino, Malena Villa, Justo Calabria, Jorge Diez, María Laura Cali. Cinematography: Tomás Pérez Silva, Jerónimo Torres. Editing: Marco Berger. Running time: 97 minutes.