Thursday, November 30, 2006


Up to ten years ago I had never heard of Frida Kahlo. Then in December 1996 I was browsing the art section of the library when I came upon a book of her paintings. The first page that fell open showed an exotically dressed woman sitting in a wheelchair. Fascinated I took the book home and from then began a ten year obsession with this complex woman who fought through tragedy to express her creativity while retaining her sense of humour.

A couple of weeks ago a friend gave me some DVDs for my birthday and the one I most wanted to watch was "Frida" starring Selma Hayek with Alfred Molina as her husband Diego Rivera. I loved this movie. Beautifully filmed the story opens when Frida was in her teens, a wild child of the 1920s, whose life was turned upside down when she was involved in terrible accident while riding the bus with her boyfriend. Basically she spent the next thirty years slowly dying while enduring many painful operations which allowed her to keep painting.

There is no way that a film can hope to capture all the light and shade of a woman like Frida but I do think Selma did an excellent job portraying this Hungarian/German/Mexican Indian/Spanish charmeleon. A great part of the movie was devoted to her relationship with the muralist Diego Rivera (when they married her mother said it was like a dove marrying an elephant) and really showed all the love they shared although neither was able to be totally faithful to the other. Another theme in the film was her relationship with Trotsky played by Geoffrey Rush. I don't know why so much was made of this affair but I guess it was a chance to say "Yes Frida had an affair with a really famous man" or else to show her devotion to the principles of socialism.

Personally the most important theme of Frida's life was that she survived despite all the problems life threw at her. Not only that but she gave something beautiful back to humanity- not only in her strange compelling paintings but also in her vibrant, larger than life persona.

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