Life after youth? You bet

By Helen Barlow

Chilean Paulina Garcia's role in Gloria involved lots of nudity and a bungy jump.

Off-screen, Chilean actress Paulina Garcia is vastly different from Gloria. She is an accomplished theatre director and teaches acting. Photo / AP
Off-screen, Chilean actress Paulina Garcia is vastly different from Gloria. She is an accomplished theatre director and teaches acting. Photo / AP

Paulina Garcia is having the time of her life in Gloria. The 53-year-old screen and theatre veteran may be famous in her native Chile, but the country's bourgeoning cinema has now thrust her into the international spotlight in the film by Sebastien Lelio.

Gloria, which won Garcia the Berlin Festival's Best Actress prize this year, has her playing a free-spirited 58-year-old Santiago divorcee, who, realising her two adult children have their own lives, generally lets loose.

"The film tries to establish that there is also an intensive life that follows after youth," she says.

Gloria starts an affair with a naval officer she meets at a singles party. Initially Garcia balked at the sex scenes involved.

"We are used to seeing young bodies, perfect bodies in nude scenes and here we have bodies with years on them." says Garcia. "To perform naked you have to be brave and really understand direction.

You have to be much more careful. Every moment is a challenge."

Lelio also made Garcia go bungy jumping. To convince her to do it, though, he had to go first. "I'd never done it before and I was terrified," the director, 39, says. The scene was a last-minute addition to the film after the Hitchcock-fan director found an amusement park called Vertigo.

It might have been spontaneous but the scene became pivotal to Gloria's liberation.

"That was quite a challenge, I may say," says Garcia smiles, "but that's really the interesting path that leads her from being a secondary figure supporting other people in their lives to becoming a protagonist in her own life."

Off-screen, Garcia is vastly different from Gloria, a character Lelio based on his mother and her friends. She is an accomplished theatre director and teaches acting.

Meanwhile, Lelio, with Sebastian Silva (The Maid, Magic Magic, Crystal Fairy) and Pablo Larrain (No, a 2013 Oscar nominee) are part of a Chilean cinema revolution of sorts.

"We are entering a new phase where producers have updated their way of tackling film," says Garcia. "This has had a great impact on Chilean cinema as a whole. We actors are playing into this wave of new cinema. We also need to see that cinema has been in synch with the social unrest that has been gaining momentum in the past five years, with younger directors forming a very strong bond. It's a very positive time for Chilean cinema."

Movie preview

What: Gloria, Chilean international arthouse hit starring Paulina Garcia
When and where: At cinemas from Boxing Day

- NZ Herald

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