Memories of a Burning Body (2024) Berlinale 2024

February 19th, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Antonella Sudasassi Furniss | Cast: Sol Carballo, Paulina Bernini, Juliana Filloy, Liliana Biamonte, Juan Luis Araya | Costa Rica / Spain 2024 | Spanish, Subtitles: English | 90′ | World premiere

Growing up in a repressive era in the Central American island of Costa Rica, when sexuality was a taboo subject, 68-year-old Ana, 69-year-old Patricia and 71-year-old Mayela developed their understanding of what it means to be a woman based on unspoken rules and implicit expectations.

In her first feature length documentary, Costa Rican filmmaker Antonella Sudasassi Furniss records the memories, secrets and longings of these three women who tell their stories off-screen.  another woman of their generation (Sol Caballo) acts out these experiences on screen. Memories is a rather trite is well-meaning docudrama that nevertheless succeeds in blowing away the myth that sex is all over by the menopause. 

The most important point Memories makes is that these women are now discovering the freedom to enjoy satisfying sexual encounters for the first time in their 60s and 70s after a repressed start to their love life that really didn’t set the night on fire despite offering marriage and children: A goal that fulfilled societal expectations but left them disillusioned. 

Sol Caballo, 65, found herself alone for over a decade, and missing sex and companionship. Harking back to the time when her first love sent her a ‘pre-sucked lollypop’, she tells how it served as a symbol of sexual lust because kissing was then forbidden for teenagers. Feelings of desire soon overwhelmed her as she was growing up, and she felt a terrible guilt for these repressed feelings which had no outlet. Sol then reflects on the shame of puberty often going into graphic details. It was a time when the nuns at her school instilled fear rather than understanding of the opposite sex. At the same time young men also felt shy and diffident around girls, leading to embarrassment and misunderstandings – so rather than a happy time this was one full of apprehension and worry.

All this plays out in beautifully crafted dramatised sequences picturing her character as a little girl growing into an adult and then getting married to a fumbling husband who went on to beat and rape her after their child was born. Fortunately there is a happy ending for Sol’s character in the modern day.

Sudasassi Furniss offers alarming insight into the realities of a Latin American society that was clearly still very repressed in the late 1960s, 1970s and even – hardly a long time ago. While in Europe 60 is now the new 40 for women, those in Costa Rica are now experiencing a sexual re-birth according to this revealing chronicle.

Memories of a Burning Body is a startling expose which also provides a wake-up call to all those in unfulfilling relationships who think that sexual pleasure is over at 60 plus; this film is here to tell you to that the joy can go on, and even begin later in life. @MeredithTaylor. 

BERLINALE 2024 | Panorama Audience Award winner 2024

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