AKA: Eva No Duerme
Genre: Historical Drama/Neo-Noir/Experimental
Year Released: 2015
Distributor: Film Movement
Running Time: 85 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 17+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Witnesses, Salamandra , Rashomon
-The actor who plays the character/narrator Emilio Eduardo Massera (a real life historical person) is Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal. He co-owns Canana Films (who helped produce this film) with fellow compatriot actor Diego Luna of The Book of Life and Star Wars: Rogue One fame. One interesting contrast is that Bernal has played Che Guevara in the movie Fidel. If you know anything about Latin American history, playing Che himself would be the polar opposite of his role as Massera.
-As one can guess, the title refers to Eva Peron, the former first lady of Argentina. Yes, this is the same person that Madonna portrayed in Evita, but Eva Doesn’t Sleep is nothing like that musical. Just don’t expect anyone singing “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina.”
-Actress Sabrina Macchi who played the deceased Eva Peron had intensive training to close her eyelids, control her breathing, and even avoiding the act of swallowing her own saliva.
Spanish language cinema can be great to watch even though I have only seen a few movies in that tongue. My prior experience with movies in that language are Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone, Cronos, El Bola, and Carol’s Journey. The last two were also from Film Movement. Earlier this year, I had the chance to visit Ecuador which was a great place to visit. In order to prepare myself, I decided that I need to see at least one Spanish-speaking movie before I vacationed in that part of South America. Okay, this is an Argentinean movie instead of an Ecuadorian movie, but it still counted for something.
Eva Doesn’t Sleep is an experimental period piece film that starts with the death of Eva Peron in 1952 where she died at the age of 33. As the narrator Admiral Massera as with the army in trying to put the body at the La Recoleta Cematary (where she’s been, to this day), he makes a comparison to Jesus Christ since he died at that age, too. However, he despises the Perons, their left-wing political ideologies, and how influential of a person Eva was. The movie flips between different times. The movie proper begins at 1976 where Massera is watching the body, but it shifts to 1952 right after the embalmer takes the body, then to 1965, then 1956 where a soldier is transporting the corpse, and 1970 where the former president Pedro Aramburu is kidnapped and questioned by Peronist sympathizers.
Yeah, it flips times almost as much as Memento, but the transitions are more straightforward than that. It can be a bit jarring seeing some characters that may be unrelated or unconnected show up, but the sole unifying thing holding these supposedly unrelated scenes together is the corpse of Eva Peron. Even when the body isn’t in the scenes, there’s still that underlying presence of her such as the influence she had with the Argentinean people or just the idea of Evita being seen as an angel or demon depending on the character’s worldview. I thought it was quite cohesive with the right balance between experimentation without going pretentiously out-there, but still easy enough for movie viewers not into art house techniques or tropes to follow.
The first story in Eva Doesn’t Sleep involves the Embalmer. He’s in charge of preserving the body as one can tell by the title. However, he wants to make sure that she’s presented as stunning which transitions into him adjusting her fingers and feet in one of the creepiest scenes I’ve seen in a long time. Hearing the bones pop when he adjusts her hands, feet, and legs made my skin crawl. Even his large photo stash of Eva Person pictures added to the creepiness of Dr. Ara the embalmer.
The second story presented involves an army transporter during President Aramburu’s reign in Argentina. He has the corpse in the back of the truck he’s driving and he’s forced to work with a rookie private named Robles who’s curious about what he’s transporting. The acting between those two characters was superb. Actor Denis Lavant’s facials after downing shots gave me chills as he creepily smiled even under the dim lighting. The fascination with Eva does occur here with one scene where Robles finds out what the soldier is transporting and the final scene where Admiral Massera narrates during an obscure camera shot which has so much fridge horror associated with it that I didn’t even notice the first time I watched it. Once you find out what’s going on, you’ll quiver in disgust.
The final story involves the capture of President Aramburu himself in a mock trial. He’s tied up in a cabin where some Peronist sympathizers known as Montoneros interrogate him about his crimes in office where he killed hundreds of his own people and only became president because of a coup. The Montoneros are clearly armed and they want him to confess. One piece of dialog that happened during the first interrogation was a scene of great writing.
Aramburu: Were you voted in by the people [to capture me]?
Montoneros interrogator: Were you?
Dang. That was a huge comeback given that he’s considered to be a dictator (hence the name of the third segment in Eva Doesn’t Sleep) and he did stage a coup against Juan Peron, his predecessor. The acting was still great here with Aramburu being calm despite being kidnapped at first like how he always asked for coffee. The Montoneros were really threatening. When they force him to talk to the government to retrieve Eva’s body, all of them just stand in close proximity smoking cigarettes. They were like vultures lurking around before their prey dies. You could feel the intensity during those final few moments.
Eva Doesn’t Sleep was an intriguing movie from start to finish, but it wasn’t a perfect one. Some parts were confusing like some of the editing choices and I also wondered what happened to Robles after the major fight scene. Also, some of the historical aspects will confuse people who don’t know anything about Eva Peron. No, they will not be solved by watching Evita. Sorry. I’m glad some things were clear enough that I could follow. However, I did have to look up aspects of General Aramburu and the Montoneros during his kidnapping to find out how they played out in Argentinean history. I’m sure people in Argentina would perfectly understand what’s going on given some of their history and culture, but to people here or other countries, well…prepare to Google some stuff. Not to mention some of the undertones with Eva’s corpse and how certain characters see it will be too disturbing for a lot of people.
This period piece was a creative take on the Eva Peron story and the ramifications of that personality decades after her death. There’s strong acting, fantastic visuals, and even great sound editing/scoring to make this a worthy watch. It can be seen as too experimental for some who are more used to linear narratives, but the experimentation isn’t self-indulgent at all. Definitely worth a watch.
Adjustable Rating System:
Subtract 2 points if you have to have movies spell things out for you.
-Strong visuals and camera work
-Great political intrigue even for those who don’t know about Eva Peron
-Some scenes are too disturbing with some undertones
-Some plot holes
-People not familiar with 20th Century Argentina may get lost
Final Score: 9/10 points
Content Warning: This would totally get an R rating over here. There’s strong language thrown in for good measure and some people die in the flashbacks and there’s one death scene, but the person who dies is off-screen when it happens. However, the biggest content warning would be the undertones with Eva’s corpse. The embalmer scene gets VERY creepy with how he adjusts her dead body, but the scene where the transporter carrying the corpse to a nearby river is even creepier if you look really closely, and I’ll leave it at that.
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