I was in a nail salon in Santa Fe a couple of weeks ago, visiting with and becoming fast friends with the girl giving me a manicure. She was telling me all about how relocating to Santa Fe from Espanola had changed her social life and how much fun she was having. “And then we went to the premiere of Bless Me Ultima at the Lensic the other night. . .” she chattered on, and I lifted my free hand.
“Wait,” I said, “There’s a movie?”
“Oh yes,” she said, “. . .and if you’re from New Mexico, you’ll love it.”
Check out the trailer here: Bless Me Ultima trailer
I found it hard to believe that anyone could take Rudolfo Anaya’s masterpiece and adapt it for the big screen, but when I was at loose ends last Friday night, I headed out to the Regal 14 on Zafarano to see it for myself.
The book was assigned in my high school English Lit class. And then again in an American Lit at NMSU in the late 70’s. And then I read it again and again, every three or four years.
Anaya is from my neck of the woods. Santa Rosa, Puerta de Luna. They’re less than 100 miles from home, and when he writes about the Silence of the Llano (the name he gave one of his short story collections), I know that wind, that loneliness, that barren landscape that seems to sometimes swallow the soul of its inhabitants. His prose, especially in Bless Me. . .and his earlier books, embodies how the landscape is as much a part of who we are as our family, friends, home, religion and history.
The Santa Fe Reporter review of this movie said it best. “this is a film that New Mexico has needed for a long time. It turns the State’s beautiful scenery into a character – which, like its human counterparts, comes across as natural and effortless. . .It’s the story of a boy trying to decipher the mysteries of the world.”
Like the book, this is a movie about healing and magic and love and fear and how they all get bound up together. Ultima, the Curandera/grandmother of Antonio, the main character, takes all those elements and uses her healing skills to help Antonio make sense of his very traditional New Mexican life.
And yes, I cried. Several times in the movie, I was moved to tears by the sweeping scenes of the New Mexico land. I tend to feel sad for folks that don’t live here – I have had to go away from this amazingly beautiful place before and I am eternally grateful to be back. The cinematography in Bless Me Ultima takes full advantage of the breathtaking light and sky here in my home state.
This movie does the book justice, although I wouldn’t have believed it without seeing it. The characters are believable and real and not sentimental at all (unlike me). This movie is a beautiful as the book and as the land where it’s filmed.
See it. If you love New Mexico, you’ll love it. If you’re not sure about New Mexico, you’ll at least know a little bit more about what’s so magical about the Land of Enchantment when it’s over.