Cinergía Movie File:

Like Water for Chocolate (Como agua para chocolate) 

Directed by Alfonso Arau, 1992

 

Cinergía
Movie Files Home
Movie File Components

Like Water for Chocolate

Created by Brandy Navurskis

Scroll down or Click on any section to jump ahead:

Section 1: Pre-screening

Section 2: Film Comprehension and Criticism

    Section 3: Media analysis


Section 1: Pre-screening

Background Links

  Note: Given the transitory nature of internet resources we suggest conducting a search to help answer the pre-screening questions.  Only a few links are included below.

Revolutionary Mexican Women:

http://www.u.arizona.edu/ic/mcbride/ws200/mex-jand.htm

In English by Tereza Jandura   This site is incredible and offers great detailed information about the women in the Mexican Revolution. It goes in to great detail about Dolores Jimenez y Muro. The site explains that the brave women in the revolution helped out a lot. There are also pictures of the women soldiers. This site will help the viewer understand the women in the film.

Revolutionary Women:

http://www.actlab.utexas.edu/~geneve/zapwomen/goetze/

In English: by Diane Goetze. This site is written mainly about the women’s roles in the Mexican Revolution. It provides information about the women in the Mexican revolution and women’s roles in the Zapista movement. This will help provide the viewer for background on women to compare with the film.

Mexican Revolution 1910-1920:

http://cgibin.rcn.com/mwhite28/mexico.htm

In English: This site offers maps that one can look at in order to visualize the wars that took place during the Mexican Revolution. Each map is under a different persons regime. For example there is one for Dia, Madero and Carranza. Each map is individual and can help one have a better understanding of the time period. 

Mexico from Empire to Revolution:

http://www.getty.edu/research/tools/digital/mexico/index_s.htm

In English and Spanish: This site is offered in both English and Spanish. It is both informational and movie like. If one clicks on the animated introduction one can see images from the time period of the Mexican revolution. This site provides information in order to educate one on the Mexican Revolution and those that were involved in the revolution. The use of pictures is very important to the site and it relates well with the film.

                                                Pre-Screening Questions

1)       What was the United States reaction to the immigration laws?

2)       How did the historical museum start and whose idea was it to build this museum about the Mexican revolution?

3)       What type of attire did the women soldiers wear?

4)       Give a detailed explanation of the life of Dolores Jimenez y Muro. When was she born? What was her significance in history?

5)        What was the role of women in the Mexican Revolution? Would their lives be of desire to you? Why or why not?

6)       In what year does Madero enter Mexico City?

7)       How does the regime of Diaz differ from the regime of Madero?

8)       How would you prepare a Hot Mexican Dip?

9)       What do some of the pictures suggest to Mexican revolutionaries?

10)    What were the roles of Díaz y Pancho Villa in the Mexican revolution?


Section 2: Film Comprehension and Criticism  

Comprehension Questions:

1)                   Where does the film take place?

2)                   What historical event took place within this period?

3)                   Who were the main characters in the film?

4)                   Why wasn’t Tita allowed to marry Pedro?

5)                   Who did Pedro marry instead of Tita?

6)                   What were Pedro’s motives for marrying someone other than Tita?

7)                   What is the main theme of the film?

8)                   Which sister of Tita’s ran away from home with another man?

9)                   Who portrays the victim in this film?

10)               How does the Doctor explain love? What does he compare it to?

11)               Who is forced to prepare the food for Rosaura’s wedding?

12)               How many children does Rosaura have with Pedro?

13)               Do Pedro and Tita finally unite in the end of the film?

14)              How does the film end? Is the ending relevant to the whole film? Why or why not?

            Historical Accuracy:

The following quotes come from Barbara A. Tenenbaum “Why didn’t Tita Marry the Doctor, or Mexican History in Like Water for Chocolate” in Donald F. Stevens ed. Based on a True Story:  Latin American History at the Movies.  Wilmington, Delaware: SR Books, 1997. pp.  157-172.

“ Nowhere does the movie inform the audience what “ like water for chocolate” means. According to the book, Tita was “ literally like water for chocolate” she was on the verge of boiling over… She felt her head about to burst, like a kernel of popcorn” (158).

“ In the book version, Gertrudis is Elena’s eldest daughter and was fathered by the mulatto José Treviño before Elena’s family married her off to Juan de la Garza, the father of Rosaura and Tita, who did not know she was already pregnant by someone else” (162-163).

“ The movie tends to gloss over Gertrudis’s becoming a whore, but the book explains that the dish prepared by Tita had so inflamed her that no one man could satisfy her lust, and she went to the brothel until she was ‘healed,’ so to speak” (167).

“ The book however leaves no doubts as to the rightness of Tita’s choices. In the United States, there are many kinds of love, and marriage based solely on passion is seen as quite a risky enterprise. In Mexico, however love is defined by passion; whether it lasts an hour or a lifetime is of little consequence” (170).

Questions:

1)       Were there aspects of the film that were confusing? Did the film answer questions about the Mexican revolution or was there a lot of information missing?

2)       How were the women portrayed in the film? Is this how they were portrayed during the Mexican revolution?

3)       In what ways has the film helped you to better understand the Mexican revolution? In what ways has it helped you understand how people lived during that time?

4)       Within Mexican culture it is natural for the children to live with the parents until they are married. Do you think the film properly demonstrates this aspect of Mexican culture?

5)       Do you think there is a reason that the book and the movie are different?

6)       Does American culture have an influence on the way the movie was portrayed?

7)       Are the men properly portrayed in the film as being part of the Mexican revolution?

8)       Does the film accurately display the roles of both genders during the Mexican revolution or does it stereotype both genders?

9)       Who is the intended audience?

10)   Do you think if the movie were geared toward a different type of audience, then the film would be demonstrated in a different way?


Section 3: Media analysis  

Still Analysis

Forbidden Love

This still is very significant because it shows Pedro kneeling down before Tita. A few seconds earlier, Pedro has just seen underneath Tita’s dress, revealing her undergarments. This scene is important to the film because the love that Tita and Pedro share cannot continue because Tita is the youngest daughter. As the youngest, she is not able to marry but has to take care of her mother. This scene takes place after Tita finds out that Pedro is marrying her older sister, Rosaura. Tita feels that Pedro has lied to her about his love for her and does not want to listen to what he has to say. 

It is important to focus on the high angle shot of the camera. It captures Pedro looking up at Tita. This represents how Pedro feels non-deserving of her love. He knows that marrying Rosaura wasn’t the right thing to do, but he did it to be close to Tita. There is symbolism in his eyes. His eyes are looking up at her in a longing way. He knows that he cannot have her but he wants her. Lastly, the darkness that fills this image represents the sad condition of the two people because they cannot be together.

Elimination of Gertrudis

This still is very important to the film because it represents the power that Mama Elena has over Gertrudis. This is an image of Gertrudis’s birth certificate being burned. Earlier in the film Gertrudis ran away with a Villista soldier. Mama Elena also found out from Father Ignacio that Gertrudis was working in a brothel near the border. Mama Elena was outraged and felt betrayed and disrespected. Therefore, she decided to burn all of Gertrudis’s photos and her birth certificate.

This still represents the shame that Gertrudis brought upon her mother. This image is close to the camera to emphasize the importance of this scene. The fire represents the power and negative effects that Mama Elena has over her children. The actual burning of the birth certificate establishes Mama Elenas strength to ruin her children’s lives if they ever were to betray or disrespect her.  Fire is a recurring symbol in the movie and here it represents passion and destruction.

Hard worker

This scene is very significant to the film because it is an example how Tita tries to forget about the pain her mother is causing her. Tita tries to forget about her pain through her cooking, which is a constant theme in the film. In this still Tita is preparing a mole. She is thinking about Pedro and a few seconds later he appears.

This still is very important because it takes place in the kitchen. The kitchen represents the outlet that Tita uses to escape her mother. It is her sanctuary that eliminates all the madness and chaos that surrounds her. The tools that are in the kitchen represent ways in which she can perfect her recipes and therefore cook in order to forget about her problems.  The sensual position of Tita also reflects the relationship between sensuality and food in the film.

Spirit of Mama Elena

This still is very important to the film because Mama Elena appears to Tita as a spirit. She is still watching over Tita and wants to control her every action with Pedro. In this scene Mama Elena tells Tita not to see Pedro anymore and puts a curse on Tita’s unborn baby and Tita. It is important to understand that Mama Elena is not giving up; she is still trying to control Tita even though she has died.

The two stills are close up to signify the importance of Mama Elena in this scene. The bars on the windows represent how it is difficult for Mama Elena to control Tita anymore, even though she is trying to and they represent the trapped and caged life Tita lives in because of her mother. However, it is important to realize the difference between these two stills. In the first still Mama Elena has her lips open, eyebrows raised and her teeth clenched. The look Mama Elena displays is anger. She is very upset that Tita is still seeing Pedro. In the second still Mama Elena has her mouth closed and a straight look. This represents the disappointment and sadness she feels towards Tita. Mama Elena feels that Tita disrespected her because she did not follow her orders.

Divine Radiance

This final scene takes place at the end of the film. A few seconds earlier Pedro and Tita were intimate and were finally able to share there love without it being forbidden. It has taken them twenty-two years to get to this point. In the middle of their love scene Pedro dies. Tita then makes herself spontaneously combust by eating matches. These stills are important because they relate back to what the Doctor said about love and matches in the middle of the film. He states,  “If one intense emotion were to light the matches all at once there would be a divine radiance.” This means that Tita was finally able to experience all her emotions for Pedro and when he died she could no longer be without him. Therefore, she sparks her emotions with the matches and then kills herself.

The fire symbolizes passion and destruction and suggests that the passion between Pedro and Tita was all consuming, just like the flames of the fire.

                        Media Literacy Questions:

1.                   Who is the intended audience for this film?

2.                   What types of morals or values were expressed in this film? Are theses the type of morals one would find in an average Mexican household?

3.                   What is the importance of the use of fire in the film? Think back to what the Doctor said about love and matches.

4.                   How are women represented in the film? Is this how women are represented in Mexico? Is this representation of women sexist?

5.                   What significance do tears hold in the film? Are they relevant to the film’s central theme?

6.                   Is the use of spirits important to the film? (think about the importance of death and spirits in Mexican culture)

7.                   What was the director’s intended purpose of the film?

8.                   The author of the book the movie is based on, Laura Esquivel, also wrote the screenplay.  Do you think that makes the differences between the book and the movie less of a problem?

9.                   Is there a lot of information displayed about the Mexican revolution? Why or why not?

10.               Why did the director choose to include magical realism in the film? ( ex. Curses, spirits, death)

11.               Is the concept of death expressed the way Mexican culture view it? Is it properly represented in the film?

12.               Does the use of music add drama to each sentimental scene? If so, what is this type of expression called

13.               Who is the character that represents evil in the film? Is there more than one?

14.               How does the use of cinematography affect the film? Does it make the film display melodrama or seriousness or even a comedic approach?

15.               Why do you think the director used fire in the very last scene of the film? Does it represent destruction or forbidden love or something else? Does the last scene have a hidden meaning?

Cinergía Home

Copyright 2000-2007

This site created and maintained by 

Sophia A. McClennen

mail: sam50@psu.edu 

For EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES only

Created on 4/10/01 

Last updated on 07/26/2007