Mar 29, 2008


This week RCTV Internacional premiered La Trepadora, "a free adaptation" of Rómulo Gallegos's classic novel, written by Ricardo Hernández Anzola. As it's common with telenovela premieres, both the press (see for example, El Universal, Meridiano, El Nacional (video of the premiere to the press) and the audience (see for instance 1, 2, 3) have commented extensively the three episodes that have been broadcast at the time I write this post. 

Two topics seem to dominate these comments: actress Norkys Batista's presence (both her beauty and peformance) as Victoria Guanipa and the telenovela's script. 

The first topic brings to the fore the unresolved debate/issue of talent v. beauty in telenovelas. From its first episode, La Trepadora underscores physical beauty by capitalizing over and over again on Norkys Batista's perfect body and sex appeal. The end of episode one includes a nude Batista in a river. A sequence that's visually beautiful, but relatively empty of dramatic pertinence and dialogue consistency:

It should be noted that Venevisión's next telenovela, Torrente, which will air its first episode on April 2, has already presented its materials (first episode and official photographs) to the press. We can see Torrente's protagonist, Maritza Bustamante, showing a similar image to that of  Victoria Guanipa in La Trepadora.

And we already know that the first episode includes two "waterfall scenes." (Since Venevisión is on open TV and, therefore, subject to the Venezuelan restrictions of the Ley de Contenidos, those scenes will be less graphic than the river sequence in La Trepadora). We will have to see whether Torrente also gives undue priority to physical beauty over other aspects of the audiovisual text. 

Regarding La Trepadora's script, it's a pretty free version of Gallegos' classic. And a big contrast with the way José Ignacio Cabrujas adapted other novels by Gallegos for RCTV in the 1970s. Following is my translation of a text written by professor Alí E. Rondón that was published in 2006 in which he analyzed the key to Cabrujas' success adapting Gallegos for telenovelas: 
In any case, as José Ignacio Cabrujas demonstrates with his fraternal looks at the scripts of Doña Bárbara, Canaima y Sobre la misma tierra and in the performances and characterizations of Arturo Calderón (Juan Primito), Miguelángel Landa (Marcos Vargas) or Marina Baura (Cantaralia Barroso, Remota Montiel), what is imposed is the dramatic, even tragic, cloak of the half-real, half-fictitious anecdotes. Each and every one of the tv presences excel as the aggregation of the ethnic and individualized values that still resonate. Behind the masquerade of their mistakes and problems, they show us the secret streams of a soul that keeps on transforming until becoming the ethos that we, Venezuelans, are.  We are not talking, however, of the mere filming of what was written. Cabrujas has increased and enhanced the dialogues. At other times, he takes the bare bones outline of a situation, re-processes it and returns it to us with the nostalgia of those images and dialogues where we can breath the essence of the ouvre. In this journey, the writer has provided the script with much more than the weaknesses, smiles, disappointments, injustice, hate and love originally resolved in the narrative realm. He has dialogued with Gallegos' work.  He has been able to read in those texts the latent proposal that allows him to re-write the drama as he touches the essence of the I of every character.   (My emphasis, Alí E. Rondón (2006), Medio Siglo de Besos y Querellas, pp. 54-55).

And in this assertive analysis, Rondón gives us the key to the uncomfortable feeling some of us have regarding the script of  this modified  Trepadora.

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