I wanted to stay away from guilt, or from poverty porn, so I allowed myself to take it with some humor. Because being poor doesn’t mean someone has to be less funny or eccentric. — Amalia Ulman
Holding on to their snobbery if not their pride, the bourgeois mother and daughter at the center of Ulman’s tragicomic farce EL PLANETA have been on an irrevocable economic slide since the recent death of the family patriarch, forcing Leonor (played by the director) to move back home with mom (Maria). Whether engaged in destination shoplifting or dead end dates with shallow suitors, an aura of self-loathing attends the pair on their excursions around Gijón, a medium-sized city in northern Spain. At home in their cramped apartment, things are much the same—a general attitude of distraction and tone-deafness colors their conversations. Cutting a more parasitic figure than her daughter, Maria casts a malevolent spell on everyone who has wronged her by writing their names on slips of paper and—depending on the curse—placing them either in the freezer or individual glasses of water, eventually leaving the women nothing to drink from.
Yet despite their mutual exchange of undermining comments and micro-aggressions, they love and accept one another—something that will come in handy once Maria (played by the director’s mother Ale Ulman) moves toward her ultimate déclassement. Beautifully modulated in execution, EL PLANETA is the feature film directorial debut by an artist best known for her video and performance work. See links below for screening info.
Directed by Amalia Ulman
Played in October 2021 at the Landmark Westwood, and the Laemmle Playhouse, NoHo 7, and Glendale
The El Planeta Film Companion is available, with contributions by Fiona Alison Duncan, Dean Kissick, Rob Kulisek, Alice Neale, Ilia Ovechkin, Leomi Leon Sadler, Min Ji Son, Natasha Stagg, Bruno Zhu, and both Ulmans.
Amalia Ulman, El Planeta (2021), from top: Amalia Ulman (left) and Ale Ulman; Ale and Amalia; U.S. poster; Ale and Amalia. Image photographs by Rob Kulisek, courtesy and © Utopia.