Julie Taymor is a blazing intelligence who speaks in pumped-up poetry about the art of filmmaking. Her theories about the visual arts tumble out as though the physical limitations of human speech can’t possibly keep up with the steady stream of her ideas. When I spoke with her on October 3, 2002, I felt as though I had been caught up in a heady whirlwind of intellect.
Taymor has said that she doesn’t think that Frida’s artistic genius was not spurred by the life-long pain she experienced as the result of a horrific accident that pierced her vagina and shattered her hip. My first question to Taymor was if she thought that it was the intensity of that experience and her concomitant capacity for pain and for joy that was the fuel for her art.
At one point during Taymor’s exquisite film, Diego Rivera tells Frida Kahlo that while he can only paint what he sees, she paints from the heart. And so it is as it should be that Taymor’s biopic of Frida’s life is the landscape of Frida’s heart than a straightforward telling of the events of her life.
The film begins at the end of Frida’s life. Her body giving out, forbidden to leave her bed by her doctor, she is being carted, bed and all, to the first exhibition of her work in her native country. As the bed is jolted in transit, she says, “Careful, this corpse is still breathing.” It’s emblematic of the drive and spirit that drove her. Though what she calls her Judas body is on its last legs, the eyes are vibrant and blend seamlessly into the eyes of her younger self, before the accident that changed her life, before the relationship with fellow artist Diego Rivera that changed her life just as much.
And while the film is of necessity episodic, the emotional journey it tells is complete, refracting that journey through the prism of Frida’s inner eye.