The Load (2016) — La Carga in Spanish — is a really, really interesting movie set in 16th-century colonial Mexico. The plot summary may sound slightly strange to you, so bear with me while I set it up. First, you have an Indian insurrection brewing against Spanish rule, and a real-life Caxcan Indian leader (Francisco Tenamaztle) who has been imprisoned. Next, you have Elisa, a Spanish widow (played by María Valverde) who wants to testify in Tenamaztle’s defense as she knows The Dirt. Various Franciscan priests who are in support of Tenamaztle need to get Elisa away from the Spanish officials and to the coast so she can sail to Spain and testify. And that’s when Painalli — an Indian man who works as a tlamemeh, porters who carry goods around the country on their backs — is recruited to literally carry Elisa (the load) on his back for hundreds of miles.
The film is interesting for a number of reasons. First, there are multiple scenes showing Caxcan Indian life, and I’m always interested in realistic depictions of native cultures.
There’s also a lot of adventure and a real sense of what 16th-century Mexico may have been like.
Okay, and there’s also this sort of thing:
On to the costumes! They were designed by Adela Cortázar, who weirdly isn’t credited on IMDB. The film appears to be set in the 1550s (based on Francisco Tenamaztle’s timeline). First, you get an actually-researched look at 16th-century Mexican dress:
Elisa’s wardrobe is overall pretty decent. She’s the only female character (aside from some nuns and a maid, who will look at in a minute), so we’ll focus on her. She starts in this black gown that evokes all my ideas of 16th-century Spanish dress — she’s in black because she’s a widow:
Compare it to the lines of the (way more formal) gown worn by Isabella of Portugal:
Looking closer, however, I was disappointed to see that what appears to be a partlet is actually sewn in and therefore Officially Weird:
Elisa spends most of the film roughing it in this pale yellow gown, with no hoop for practicality’s sake. I generally liked this dress, although the fabric pattern seems more 18th-century naturalistic than 16th-century geometric — but the contrast is so pale it doesn’t really register.
However, someone doesn’t know how to dress a spiral-laced bodice, and the gown is misaligned in back, a pet peeve of mine.
Late in the film, Elisa ditches her gown for what she has presumably been wearing underneath, an open bodice petticoat straight out of the Tudor Tailor.
Near the end of the film, Elisa wears this doublet-bodiced gown:
And finally, at court in Spain, she’s all dressed up in a red damask dress:
Looking at other characters:
Watch The Load. You’ll be glad you did!