This week's Reel vs. Real puts the spotlight on a 2002 biopic which gives us a peek into the life of a legendary artist and iconic woman who hailed from Mexico: Frida Kahlo, portrayed by Mexican-American actress Salma Hayek.
The soulful self-portraits of the renowned Mexican surrealist painter Frida Kahlo may be intriguing and heart-wrenching, but her life as an artist and a woman proves even more poignant. For anyone who wants to take a glimpse into her life, the 2002 American biopic Frida is a moving tribute to one of the most fascinating and unforgettable women the world has come to know.
Frida, which stars Salma Hayek as the iconic surrealist painter and Alfred Molina as her muralist husband Diego Rivera, touches base on all the events that led to Kahlo’s colorful yet emotionally turbulent life as an artist: from the injuries she sustained from the bus accident when she was 18, to her father encouraging her to do painting to ease her into recovery, and finally, her passionate yet dysfunctional marriage to the notorious womanizer Diego Rivera.
The film not only features some of Kahlo’s best known paintings to demonstrate their relevance in her life, but also adds some interesting touches like animated bits popping out from the paintings. Hayek’s impressive performance in this film was most likely driven by her own interest in the surrealist painter and her works, even if she was initially not a fan, being so young (around 13 or 14) when she discovered Kahlo’s work:
“At that age I did not like her work … I found it ugly and grotesque. But something intrigued me, and the more I learned, the more I started to appreciate her work. There was a lot of passion and depth. Some people see only pain, but I also see irony and humor. I think what draws me to her is what Diego saw in her. She was a fighter. Many things could have diminished her spirit, like the accident or Diego’s infidelities. But she wasn’t crushed by anything.”
Even more interesting was Hayek’s determination to snag the role, that she reportedly sought out a long-time lover of Diego Rivera, Dolores Olmedo Patino, whom the muralist entrusted with the rights of his and Frida’s art before he passed away. Hayek, upon obtaining access to Kahlo’s paintings, started to put together a supporting cast and turned to Alfred Molina to star as Diego Rivera.
Watch the trailer for Frida below:
A series made for cinephiles, Reel vs. Real highlights some notable biographical films that you may or may not have watched, and puts the biopic actors side by side with their real life counterparts.