By Don Simpson | February 21, 2012
Director: Gabriel Rojas Vera
Writer: Gabriel Rojas Vera
Starring: Angela Carrizosa, Juan Manuel Diaz Oroztegui, Diego Galindo, Angelica Sanchez, Edgar Alexen
Opening in a quiet and ambiguous state of in medias res, it takes a while before we learn that Karen (Angela Carrizosa) has left her loveless marriage, in which her husband (Edgar Alexen) treated her more like a slave than a lover. Karen quickly moves into a decrepit boarding house in Bogotá featuring a grimy shared bathroom with cockroaches and shoddy hot water. Karen pays three months rent upfront at the boarding house, but quickly runs out of money.
After 10 years of being a housewife, Karen has no qualifications for getting a job, so she must resort to low-level grifting in order to sustain herself. Karen’s young and vibrant neighbor Patricia (Angelica Sanchez) motivates her to take the first steps towards independence and self-discovery. However, Patricia’s notion of female empowerment is basically to use men for sex and money, and we sense that Karen will probably want to take another route towards her independence.
Writer-director Gabriel Rojas Vera uses the character of Karen to theorize what could have happened to Ibsen’s Nora (A Doll’s House) after she leaves her husband. Vera also throws in some characteristics of Tolstoy’s Anna (Anna Karenina), allowing Karen the courage to pursue happiness on her own and overcome the prejudices of a society that undervalues women.
It is overwhelmingly clear that Karen lives in a machismo Colombian society, where women do not share the same advantages as men. As Karen’s own mother suggests, women are their husband’s property and they are expected to remain married no matter what. In other words, women are essentially slaves of their husbands who maintain financial control over them. When women choose marriage over developing a career, they end up stuck in their marriage because they cannot afford to leave. Karen Cries on the Bus is a beautiful meditation on feminism that is worth checking out.
Karen Cries on the Bus was released in the United States on DVD by Film Movement in February 2012.