As most women know it’s hard enough being your own person without constantly looking over your shoulder at that ever present imprinted shadow of your mother, fixated in your mind since you were born. Naturally the older you get the more you consciously try to press that shadow down and create a new identity. This is why ‘Para Elisa Aka for Elisa’ is so consuming because it does the exact opposite with the mother daughter relationship dynamic. It’s an energising and sinister portrayal of a familial relationship that thrives on obedience, role play and bloodlust violence.
We have Ana who is a university student and needs money to fund a graduation holiday. After fighting with her boyfriend she manages to land an interview for a babysitting job. She meets the child’s mother Diamantina who is a pianist with an impressively Versaillesque furnished apartment and an open bookshelf devoted to dolls. All is well until Ana sees the child, Elisa for the first time who is probably as old as she is, dressed up like a school girl. Leading to her being forcibly kidnapped and suited up in a weird doll dress for the ‘child’ Elisa to play with, an ultimate act of passing down the maternal baton from mother to daughter to the newly assigned doll.
It’s a brilliant premise to work with. Often macabre and infantilising, the first half of the movie is more paced out and surreal, you don’t understand what you’re watching. Yet it’s more of a psychological study than just a typical ‘horror’ movie. There are problems of identity, overt / hidden eroticism and harmony; it’s something of an emotional smothering of all these different dynamics. Very energetic and exciting but so surreal up till the ending which leaves you with a wry laugh it’s not the happiest resolution. As was most of the second half of the movie.
Created by Juanra Fernandez, his first full length feature film which he wrote too. Much has been said about the recent trend in Spanish cinema whereby psychological horror movies are being made frequently. And ‘Para Elisa’ may not be the most conventional type of horror movie you’ll see on the big screen but it is an interesting take on this genre, and with a great premise, although it does laughably fizzle out a little towards the end.
By Shantok Jetha