Señoritas (2013) is the first of two feature films by the Colombian-born, Canada-based director Lina Rodríguez. The film follows its protagonist Alejandra (María Serrano), a young woman living in Bogotá, as she navigates her personal life and relationships. Señoritas serves as a celebration of the minutiae of a woman’s life; the complex and loving relationship she has with her mother, her friendships, physical desires and sexual exploits, her daily exercise and beauty routines. Deeply contemplative and observational, the film asks its viewers to relinquish all expectations of narrative momentum and to find in its nuanced structure and aesthetic a radical form of feminist filmmaking.
As viewers we witness snippets of Alejandra’s life, but we are never privy to the whole. We are always watching, always observing, but there is a distinct lack of voyeurism in the relationship between the viewer and the image. Rodríguez’s camera stays very close to her characters, but the angling of the shots allows for a breathing space in which there is no room to objectify Alejandra, nor to pass judgement on her. Even in scenes that are sexual in nature—whether it is Alejandra masturbating alone or kissing and touching another person—the composition of the shots, their propinquity and protractedness, allow the image to be arrestingly intimate but never sexualised. In Señoritas we can witness female desire full-on and uncompromising, but beautifully banal in its fidelity to the humdrum nature and textures of real life.
Women, as subjects in cinema, are routinely relegated to the passive position as object of the male gaze and women, as spectators, have been systematically distanced from their filmic counterparts through representation that does not serve the female experience justly or faithfully. Elliptical, elusive and richly evocative, Alejandra’s life—in all its mundaneness and excitement—is a life we can recognise. The film presses on in an undulating, almost sleepy motion and, as a female viewer, what I see on screen is so proximate to the feeling of being a young woman that it seems almost overwhelmingly alive.