Even the Wind is Afraid March 29, 2021
n Even the Wind is Afraid (1968), Alicia Bonet plays Claudia, a bright student at an all-girls college in rural Mexico. Lately, she's been having a recurring nightmare in which she happens upon a room she’s never been in before. A girl about her age has hanged herself there. She screams, then wakes up. The first few times Claudia has had this dream she figured it wasn’t anything to fret over — probably an overactive subconscious
trying to tell her something about her life. (One of her classmates knows how to interpret dreams — maybe Claudia should go to her.) But in recent days the persistence of the nightmare, paired with how most nights Claudia could swear a ghostly voice outside is calling for her, intimates to her that her brain isn’t simply overextending itself. What if she's being used as a messenger of some kind?
Claudia and some of her friends decide to investigate the hulking tower toward the back of the school’s grounds — the dream suggests it has something to do with this hanging. They don’t get very far before getting caught by their school’s shockingly autocratic headmistress, Bernanda (Marga López). When she suspends Claudia and her friends from going home for their impending break as a result, it seems an oblique way of confirming Claudia's nightmare may somehow have a basis in reality. It also suggests that that reality is potentially one Bernanda wants left unexplored.
We’ll learn why in Even the Wind is Afraid. Though in this quasi-Gothic horror movie it isn’t so much the unsurprisingly macabre outcome that matters and more the wonderfully cultivated atmosphere which guides the story. On these claustrophobic grounds, the winds blow violently at night, the electricity tends to shut off by itself, and pleasure is giddily quelled by the powers that be — one cannot so much as dance to a song they like without an accompanying reprimand. (Bernanda’s pupils exclusively refer to her behind her back as “The Witch”; the nickname, though, seems softball — this woman is an exhausting joy leech.) Visually the movie’s textures call to mind ominous, repressive moors of the Brontë-sister kind. The presence of a secret room holding something damning is especially evocative of Jane Eyre (1847). The school’s interiors — many of which sing in pinks, reds, and yellows — start having a sickening-sweet quality the more it seems these manicured surfaces smother a rot.
The director, Carlos Enrique Taboada, does such a good job layering on the speculative dread — and effectively establishing the friendships at this story's core (shared miseries bond these girls) — that it’s almost inevitable once suppositions turn concrete they disappoint. The movie might have satisfied more if its ending were as bold — and scary — as its first few acts portended. (It's still soundly delivered.) The neatness, and the too-early reveal of the forbidding secret, makes the movie ultimately have the feeling of a dark, very good melodrama. Abuses of power are inescapable; one's grave wrongdoings ineluctably — horrifically — catch up to them. The film isn’t not gratifying, but you want it to boil over more — perhaps so far that a mess is left behind. Still, Even the Wind is Afraid has a hell of a simmer. B+