Like Water for Chocolate

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Alfonso Arau’s film version of his ex-wife’s novel is like a loving painting of what she was thinking when she wrote the novel. A general criticism of the film version is that it is dark and hard to view. I would argue that this was done deliberately by the director and his cinematographers (Emmanuel Lubezki and Steve Bernstien) to enhance certain scenes. As you progress through the film you notice that emotionally dark moments are dimly lit and fantasy scenes filmed through warm fuzzy filters. The use of light and darkness enriches the story by emphasizing the characters and setting.

In the opening scenes you notice that the only light coming into the dark room is from the window. It highlights the onions that are being chopped, emphasizing the importance that food will take in this journey we are about to embark on. The next scene of the men discussing Gertrudis birth, is one of the darkest in the movie. This scene, coming right after Tita’s delivery, gives us not only a feeling of impending doom, but of dark secrets held. The only light comes from a tiny window which tells us that the home we are viewing is dark and cold. This juxtaposition of light and darkness occurs throughout the movie, especially in scenes including Mama Elena. When Arau then takes the viewer outside the house, we are treated to colors that are pastel like and shot through filters giving a feeling of relief from confined atmosphere of the house. The scene in the film when Pedro declares his love for Tita is entirely lit by candlelight, not only giving us a romantic image, but also foreshadowing the importance that fire will play in the story, particularly in the ending.

The darkness of some of the scenes gives us a feeling of clau...

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... throughout the film now shines in a brilliantly lit tunnel through which the lovers finally escape.

Alfonso Arau has bathed his film in a mixture of a visual glow and a darkness not only to show us the differences in setting and characters, but to show us passions and repressions. Strong passions produce sparks and fire, despair is bathed in darkness. Arau also uses lighting to just enhance the beauty of the film. The night scenes are candlelit and have a certain glow. The day scenes are inside the houses have natural light pouring in through windows and cracks giving the film a beautiful look almost as if we were looking through the windows of the character’s souls.

Works Cited

Esquirel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate. New York; Anchor Books, 1995.

Like Water for Chocolate, DVD, directed by Alfonso Arau (2000; Burbank, CA: Walt Disney Video, 2000).
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