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July Book Club - FRIDA > Frida, Part II - Her Continuing Legacy

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message 1: by Laura (last edited Jul 31, 2020 10:28AM) (new) - added it

Laura E | 69 comments Mod
Hi there,
As we finish up reading "Frida" by Barbara Mujica, here are some more questions to think about and discuss. These questions will focus on Part II of the novel, with further reference to the film "Frida," starring Salma Hayek. Feel free to reference the whole of the book and other sources if you so choose.

1. First of all, what did you think of the book? Having crafted Kahlo's story as historical fiction, the author acknowledges that she took certain liberties with events and her interpretations; do you feel the book gave you a more or less accurate impression of Frida Kahlo's personality?

2. You may have noticed some differences between the film version of Kahlo's life and the book version. To some extent, this is inevitable as a film has to rely on different storytelling methods and must shorten the sequence of events to fit only a few hours. How did the film strike you in comparison with the novel? How did Frida, as a character and as a real person, seem to you across the two different versions?

3. Let's talk about our overall impressions of the story. What surprised you about Frida Kahlo's life? Did your understanding of her art or viewpoint change at all from having explored these differing portrayals?

4. Lastly, let's look at some more of Frida Kahlo's original art. What is a painting you learned about through the novel or film? If you need a source, here is a website with a number of her paintings, which you may recognize from the movie and book's descriptions: Feel free to share one or more paintings, and why it stands out to you.

For me, "The Two Fridas" ( stands out because of Cristi's fictional conjecture that the painting may, deep down, represent her own relationship with Frida instead of Frida's stated meaning that it shows her conflicted relationship with herself. While this is a fictional interpretation, it reminds me that what Kahlo presented to the world as the meaning may only be a fraction of what her painting meant to herself and the people who knew her. As viewers, we also bring our own meanings to the paintings that resonate with us.

message 2: by Kyland (new)

Kyland | 29 comments Mod
1. I am still reading the Frida; but I have been enjoying reading this novel from what could have been her younger sister’s perspective on her life. The details are as if Frida told Christi every aspect of her thoughts and adventures or that Christi was so close to her sister, it was like she lived through those events herself. After watching the movie and reading the novel, some of the depictions of Frida seem very similar in that she was cheeky, enjoyed exploring sexuality, and was devout when it came to causes and movements she cared about. I liked that in the novel, Mujica took time to focus on what Frida’s childhood may have been like growing up half Mexican and half German in a Revolutionary era Mexico. I feel that this gives a better understanding as to why Frida developed the personality that is portrayed in both the later chapters of the novel and in the film. These gave me a consistent idea of what Frida Kahlo’s personality and life may have been like when she lived at the beginning of the 20th century.
2. In the novel, Frida came off as a bit more mischievous, starved for attention, and in some ways villainous. She was untraditional and explorative in both the film and the novel, however I think it was highlighted in different ways. The novel had a chance to explore the way Frida may have been thinking and what drove her actions. The film does not necessarily have that luxury and we have to rely on her actions to infer her thought patterns and motives. When get an idea when we get glimpses of her paintings and the context they were painted in, but we see more of a daring character that we are trying to understand in the movie versus the novel.
3. I’d known about Frida Kahlo’s tumultuous marriage to Diego Rivera, but I was truly surprised by just how much hardship she endured in her lifetime from her youth to her death. The trolley accident, multiple procedures, miscarriages, divorce and affairs, sexual escapades, and even uncommon political practices in her generation, all inspired her work and I have a greater understanding and appreciation for her life story in her paintings. Kahlo’s artwork is actually her autobiography if you look carefully and have knowledge of the context and events that led to her creations. I am in awe of how raw and vulnerable her paintings and perspectives were!
4. First of all, I am grateful Laura provided the website to view Frida’s artwork at the beginning of the month. I viewed and read through almost all of them and learned so much about this amazing artist. I had only seen a couple of paintings prior to the book and film, but the pieces that stood out to me he most were, like Laura, “The Two Fridas,” and “Henry Ford Hospital.” The heartbreak and separation of a piece of herself in the first painting mentioned, is visualized in a shocking way. There is a sense that she will never be fully whole, and it’s interesting that the dripping blood is spilling on her pristine white dress. To me, this is also a symbol of how her art affects the world around her. Her emotions, passion and ideas cannot be hidden and her open heart spills onto the blank canvas and therefore into our unsuspecting world. It makes us think, it makes us feel and it gives a deeper meaning to life. In the film, after watching the talk she and Diego had when Frida told him she was pregnant, how Diego decided to get on board with the upcoming birth, and then seeing the heartbreak of the miscarriage played out, made the impact and understanding of the painting much greater. In the 2002 film, Frida kept the undeveloped fetus in a jar close to her as she painted and processed her pain through her art. This scene and therefore this painting, takes us as viewers through exactly what Frida went through during that time. We understand the torture she endured in this moment. Both paintings are beautiful and thought provoking!

message 3: by Laura (last edited Jul 31, 2020 12:38PM) (new) - added it

Laura E | 69 comments Mod
This was an interesting book for me because I knew very little about it going in. The reviews were polarized, with some people loving it and other finding it too negative/unfair to Frida. I was surprised at how close the book sticks to the biographical facts, actually, as I read a short biography along with the novel for comparison. I know that Christi, through Mujica's fictionalization, is not supposed to be a reliable narrator about Frida, but overall Mujica gives a pretty reliable version of what Frida Kahlo may have been like, with the humanizing element of showing her failures as well as her accomplishments. The movie, on the other hand, takes a more worshipful gaze at Frida, and I feel it sanitizes some of her realities, including her radical politics and the extent of Diego's infidelities to her. For example, the movie makes it seem like Christi's affair with Diego was a one-off event, when it was probably more like the book's depiction of the affair as an ongoing and complicated relationship in itself. The film keeps things much more "black and white," while the book has room to explore the nuances of complex relationships, and how Frida and Diego could still love each other, despite some actions on his part that are truly unforgivable. One thing I didn't like was that Mujica ascribes some actions to Frida that were not historically accurate but are damning, like an affair with a student, which Mujica says in her afterword is entirely fictional. It made me wonder about her depiction of Diego, too. Is it fair or accurate that she had him abuse Christi? (I can only wonder if Mujica was trying to make a point about what we don't know about the people we venerate because of their art. In the current culture of knee-jerk "canceling" for past behavior, I don't know that she would have ventured into this territory if she wrote it now.) On the whole, however, Mujica's novel gives a good impression of Frida, as a person with faults and failures, who did what she could to find meaning in a life beset by pain and tragedy. The movie does a great job of incorporating Kahlo's artistic style into the story, giving glimpses of Mexican culture through exuberant songs and surrealist scenes of her inner world. The image of "The Dream," with Frida lying in her bed, the flames of death surrounding her in vivid animation, will stick with me. While reading the book and watching the film made me realize how different Frida Kahlo was from myself, the experience has made me feel closer to her, like I can now understand at least some of the poetry of her paintings.

message 4: by Kyland (new)

Kyland | 29 comments Mod
I love how you brought out the differences of presenting Frida as a fully complex and person with dimension in Mujica's novel, versus the straight black and white hero viewpoint that is taken in the movie. Both the movie and book have the goal of letting you into Frida's world, but they take totally different avenues in doing so. I understand why reviews could be polarizing when Mujica takes creative liberties, which is something you would expect most movies to do for entertainment purposes instead of novels based on real historical figures. However, as you said, this could help her drive her point and perspective about certain figures, versus how we would usually view them. Seeing how both media compared to a factual biography creates a better understanding of not only Frida, but how the producers of the film and Mujica viewed the artist, which could provide an interesting perspective in itself. That is a great idea and way to supplement the experience!

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