Apr 9, 2008


On April 2,  Venevisión premiered its new telenovela, Torrente, written by Benilde Alvarez and Neida Padilla. The press wrote extensively about the first episode (El Universal, El Nacional, Ultimas Noticias, El Mundo), highlighting the beauty and proliferation of exterior shots in Venezuela's Gran Sabana region, and the central plot of surrogate motherhood.

Torrente is a change from the style of telenovelas broadcast in Venevisión. Some press reports have defined it as a return to the rosa style (see, for example,  El Nacional). Personally, I believe that we're facing an involution of the text (script+incidental music), that contrasts with the undeniable technical and directorial advances that allow the extraordinary display of natural beauty that we see in Torrente:

and the mise-en-scene of sequences like the airplane accident depicted in the following videos (10:30 in the first video and the beginning seconds of the second video):

To be specific, when I say there's an involution of the text, I'm not talking about the theme that underpins the central conflict: surrogate motherhood. This is a contemporary and controversial topic that is perfect for a telenovela. (The topic is so current that Newsweek recently dedicated  its cover story  to the topic. When I say involution, I refer to:
  • The flat depiction of important characters (and their stereotypical interpretation). For instance, villain Cayo Gabaldón, interpreted by actor Félix Loreto.
  • The inclusion of predictable and trite dialogues.
  • The backwardness of certain dialogues:  "I'm an incomplete woman who was born with a useless womb", "We, women, need to have children. We were born for that", says the protagonist,  Ana Julia. Those words construct a woman that, even though she has a stable and loving relationship, professional success and beauty, has a microscopic self-esteem exclusively based on her ability to bear children.  It's an outdated depiction of women that denies our struggle for an identity that goes beyond being "so and so's mom" or "the wife of..."
  • There are problems in the connection among scenes and in the handling of the mini-time elipses. The consequence is an irregular rhythm in the storytelling, and sequences that don't make sense. The source of the problem could be in the edition process. But, I think it's in the script's outline. Both the director and editor are trying to minimize this issue, without much success so far.
  • The incidental music consists of excessively dramatic scores, utilized only to exaggerate the melodrama. The result reeks of telenovelas from decades past. 

All of these, coupled with the almost total absence of humor (the only semi-humorous element is the tone of the character Juancho Gabaldón, played by Eduardo Orozco), underpin my perception of  Torrente as an involution.

Having said this, it's still early in the game. The telenovela has the potential of building on many interesting dramatic knots.

I must say, however, that this isn't a good moment for the Venezuelan telenovela industry. With the forced transformation of RCTV into RCTV Internacional, and the changes in priorities of  Venevisión's top management (priority to the international market over the local one), we're beginning to see telenovelas whose best attributes lie on the technical aspects of production (much like the telenovelas produced in Miami). I think this is a loss for the genre because telenovelas are losing their ability to connect with the public not only through the love story, but also through well designed characters and situations that we both recognize and recognize ourselves in since they're ingredients or our dreams and realities. 

1 comment:

Maria Weir said...

I'm watching Torrente these days here in the U.S. It's obsious that Univision thinks Venezuelan telenovelas are hardly worth watching. The series airs at midnight and the Mexican telenovelas are always during prime time. I think that Torrente is one of the best I've seen. The characters are well defined, the actors play their parts believably, and the dialogue surpasses those of the Mexican counterparts. If nothing else, it convinces me that I should visit Venezuela!!! The views are terrific.