Elisa y Marcela (2019) Showcases Same-Sex Marriage

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Same-sex marriage was legalized in Spain in 2005, but in 1901, two women had a marriage ceremony in a Catholic church and received a marriage certificate. One of the women pretended to be a man, and subsequently they were excommunicated, arrested, and imprisoned. But their marriage was never annulled. This is the story behind the Netflix-produced film Elisa y Marcela (2019), now available for streaming.

Shot in black and white, this is an arty and oblique look at the lives of Elisa Sánchez Loriga and Marcela Gracia Ibeas. The direction is rather plodding but story is not predictable — just the pacing is not well constructed to heighten the drama of what these women were doing and the risks they took. Too bad the actual filmmaking is rather trite, because the historical details are fascinating, and the romance at the heart of the tale is quite touching.

Elisa y Marcela (2019)

Did I mention artsy? Yeah. And the octopus returns during a sex scene. *sigh*

I found myself comparing this to Gentleman Jack (2019), since, of course, I’ve been steeped in that series recently. Both are historical subjects, but where Anne Lister was upper-class with money and status to protect her, Marcela and Elisa are working women in small towns with no-one and nothing to depend on. From the first scenes of their budding relationship, Elisa and Marcela are tentative and shy, which is realistic for queer women in the period (and sometimes today). Later, they draw town gossip and physical threats that are something many LGBTQ people have had to face in every era. The story rings true and feels historically accurate, and while the ending isn’t all that happy, it’s still amazing what these two women tried to do to stay together.

Elisa y Marcela (2019)

The costumes aren’t bad for what must be a low-budget film. Compared to another indie queer film on a tight budget, Wild Nights With Emily (2019), the look of Elisa y Marcela is more internally consistent and better evokes the historical era. Most of the movie takes place around the 1890s-1900s, and the women are dressed reasonably for the period and their social class. Since there are several sex scenes, we know they’re wearing corsets and shifts. However, the main characters leave their hair down almost the entire time, even though other women have theirs up.

Elisa y Marcela (2019)

As schoolgirls, they both wear various shirtwaist blouses & long skirts, appropriately enough.

Elisa y Marcela (2019)

I suspect these corsets are vintage girdles or longline bras, but at least they’re worn as corsets would be in this period.

Elisa y Marcela (2019)

At this point, both women are teachers in a mountain village. Hair? Still down.

Elisa y Marcela (2019)

Marcela disguises herself as her cousin “Mario” & marries Elisa.

1901, Elisa y Marcela

The real wedding photo from 1901 of Elisa Sánchez Loriga & Marcela Gracia Ibeas.

Elisa y Marcela (2019)

They run away to Portugal, but their notoriety follows them.

Elisa y Marcela isn’t a brilliant film or a must-see addition to the LGBTQ media canon. But Elisa Sánchez Loriga and Marcela Gracia Ibeas are a part of queer history that deserves at least this small tribute.

 

14 Responses

  1. Roxana

    Is it just me or do movies on gay relationships really lean more to girl on girl than guy on guy?

    Reply
  2. Susan Pola Staples

    I’m actually thinking of adding Netflix. This is another pro for my list. Not sure about keeping Hulu as it only has Harlots but I don’t believe it’s on DVD.

    Reply
  3. Gosia

    Girls, I would like to ask you a question for a long time: Why are gay themes so important on your site (I have even the impression that if a gay theme is a major plot point in a film, you are not so strict about the costumes; correct me if I’m wrong)?
    Most heterosexuals I know (me included) are indifferent towards LGTB people, according to the saying “live and let live” (a gay man I fleetingly knew, preferred a neutral treatment, instead of pointing out that he was homosexual).

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      “Most heterosexuals I know (me included) are indifferent towards LGTB people”

      That’s an interesting anecdote, but I’d counter by saying most people I know are not “indifferent” — they are welcoming & interested about lives & history that may vary from their own experience. Many people look to historical film & TV to learn about the breadth & depth of people’s lives in the past — & that includes queer stories, just as it includes stories about people of color.

      The past was not just white & straight, & we here at Frock Flicks are happy to see producers looking at more of the diversity of historical topics, instead of just rehashing the same old things (how many Jane Austen & Queen Elizabeth movies do we need, really?).

      Also, your editor-in-chief is a bisexual Asian-American so, hi, representation is important to me personally. Just because you “fleetingly” knew one gay man who, to you, didn’t want his identity pointed out, that could have been because of your attitude or the situation you met him in or for a million other reasons. We’re talking about film & TV representation here, & when 99.9% of films & TV shows only have white, straight storylines, it makes LGBTQ folks & people of color feel like we don’t matter as equal human beings worthy of having our stories told on screen.

      So yes, Frock Flicks will always review queer historical films (along with costume dramas featuring people of color). Because representation is important in history. Also, in case you didn’t notice, June is LGBTQ Pride Month, & this is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that kicked off the LGBTQ civil rights movement in the U.S. Google it — this is kind of a big deal.

      Reply
      • Gosia

        Trystan, I think that you have reacted kind of touchy here. I was just asking politely. I live in a country in Central Europe, where almost everybody is white and homosexuality was never punishable, so the LGBTQ civil rights movement is a foreign concept for me. Also because I’m from Central/Continental Europe, I didn’t know about the LGBTQ Pride Month and that there is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (most people in Continental Europe don’t know that too). I was just curious why the topics of LGBTQ and people of color are important points on your site. That’s all. Thank you for your explanation, but keep in mind that not all of your readers come from English-speaking countries and your culture and hence some things might come across as unusual for them.

        Reply
        • Gosia

          PS.: I didn’t know that you were Asian-American, because to me you look Caucasian … When it comes to my attitude towards this gay guy, his sexuality didn’t matter to me, because for me he was just a good costume designer in the first place. So there is no need to get irritated (if you got irritated of course; communication via the Internet is ambiguous …)

          Reply
          • Trystan L. Bass

            Just trying to point out that your admittedly incidental interaction with one person is not necessarily representative of whole groups of people or a whole category of history. Just like one white-passing chick on the internet (like me, hah) is not representative of a whole culture. But we try to learn & listen to more perspectives :)

            Reply
            • Gosia

              I’m relieved that I didn’t hurt you. That would be the last thing I would like to do. I’m glad that everything is clear now and that we have reached an understanding :-).

              Reply
        • Trystan L. Bass

          Check your history more closely — where in “central Europe”? Because Germany put homosexuals from all over Europe in the concentration camps. Same-sex activity is only ‘not punishable’ in EU member countries, & that does not include same-sex marriage or adoption by same-sex couples. These laws were only passed by the EU in 1999. Before that, same-sex activity was illegal in most European countries before the 1960s-1990s.

          So while I mentioned Stonewall specifically, because that is why June is LGBTQ Pride Month, it’s Pride Month worldwide, not just in the U.S. because that seminal historical event helped kick off a worldwide movement. And, as a site dedicated to history, I feel it’s important to consider everyone’s history.

          Reply
          • Gosia

            If you have to know, I come from Poland to be exact, a country where homosexual activity was never punishable (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Poland). Many people are conservative here (but not as conservative as US-American conservatives or evangelicals; I wonder what you think about them) and there are very few people, who are not white, hence the points mentioned above come across as unusual for me. As I have written before, I just wanted to get information about the reasons for character of your site. This information did I get and would like to thank you for that. It wasn’t my intention to upset you and I would be sad, if you you understood it that way.

            Reply
            • Trystan L. Bass

              Do note the rest of that Wikipedia entry how Poland has continually refused to legalized same-sex marriage & even civil unions — exactly what this film review was about. And a quick peruse of the latest news shows that Poland’s current government is trying to push an anti-LGBTQ agenda. So is America’s.

              Again, these are all reasons we need to recognize films & TV shows that explore queer history & seek to understand the lives of people who may be different than us. Because honestly, we have more in common than we think.

              Reply
              • Gosia

                Trystan, I like your last sentence. I namely thought that LGBTQ people are a hermetic group, who don’t like the interest of “outsiders” in them …

                Reply

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