Anna Karina in Pierre le Fou


Teresa Villaverde - "Transe" Screened at Créteil Films de Femmes

Teresa Villaverde and festival director Jackie Buet, Creteil.
©Moira Sullivan
Amidst a couple of cries against the film in progress, Teresa Villaverde's Transe (Portugal 2006) unfolded: an epic saga about a young Russian woman who leaves her country in search of more opportunity and who winds up being trafficked as a sex slave in Italy. Its not sure if the grumbling in the Grand Salle at Créteil Films de Femmes on April 2 was consciously made because the subject was so disturbing, or because of the unconventional form of the film that may have put spectators on edge. When giant trees fall in the forest at a road stop for the woman in transit, the beginning of the loss of self is profoundly foreshadowed. After the trees hit the ground, the images are blurred; this begins Sonia's (Ana Moreira) trance: one that she is within the entire film, as are we as spectators of cinema.

There is nothing random about the way Villaverde frames each scene. Her creative use of the camera and editing to create a picture language that symbolically follows the narrative is brilliant. Villaverde sets the focal lengths, angles and mobility of the camera, arranges the shots, and tells a story not only in words but in symbols.

We should remember that Sonia is a young woman in her 20s who is exposed to the most vicious degradation and loss of personal freedom one can experience as a woman. Trafficking is a huge problem today and women are doubly at risk for being sex slaves but also illegal aliens and thereby are not free to speak out against their captivity. According to Villaverde, perpetrators are sophisticated in hiding the signs of physical abuse.

Why does Sonia not resist? Why did she allow herself to be put in the trunk of a car because of a supposed raid by immigration authorities in Germany? She told the perpetrator no so many times. At every no, there is a sigh of relief. Short lived as the seduction and entrapment wins.  Why does she not jump out of the car when she has a chance? Why does she not run? The loss of self is so complete in this film that we cannot really expect any answers to satisfy these questions. We are not in her situation. What can we do about this barbarianism today? Does it continue so that prostitution can continue without any legal barriers?

We know that trafficking must stop and the buyers of sex, as in Sweden, must be prosecuted.

Is it a dream that Sonia envisions a young boy with a rifle in the room aiming at her, where she is forced to service buyers of sex? There are many facets of her trance to reconcile and Villaverde does not make this easy for us.

Sonia before leaving Russia.
First loss: Sonia loses her cloths.
The first tradeoff of Sonia in a wheat field.
The decrepit Italian site where women are sold as sex slaves.
The distraught mentally challenged man. His father bought Sonia for him.

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