In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Lucrecia Martel

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Biographical Works
  • Collections of Critical Essays
  • Martel as Auteur
  • Martel and the “New Argentine Cinema”
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • The Body and the Senses
  • Religion
  • Sound
  • Animal Themes
  • Martel’s Short Films

Cinema and Media Studies Lucrecia Martel
Deborah Martin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 November 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0326


Lucrecia Martel (b. 1966) is one of the best-known contemporary Latin American filmmakers. She is an innovative stylist who has gained worldwide recognition for her strange, oneiric, and sensorial feature films, which have won prizes at film festivals around the world. Martel has been seen as part of the wave of aesthetic experimentalism and the shift away from previous forms of filmmaking in Argentina that came to be known in the early 2000s as the “New Argentine Cinema,” and early criticism of her work is often preoccupied with locating it within that trend, which was seen as intrinsically linked with the context of economic crisis in Argentina. Feminist perspectives on Martel’s work were also among the first writings on her, later followed by a number of queer readings of her work. In addition, because of its formal innovations, critics of Martel’s work have also paid sustained attention to aesthetic and cinematographic questions, especially around sound and the extra-visual senses, including touch and the haptic. Martel’s first three features—La ciénaga (2001), La niña santa (2004), and La mujer sin cabeza (2008)—are often referred to as the “Salta Trilogy” and depict the life of the conservative middle classes in the provincial setting of Salta, Northwest Argentina, where Martel grew up. They have been read as critiquing gender, sexual, ethnic, and class power structures, while questions of phenomenology, the body, the senses, and the use of sound have also been to the fore. The more recent Zama (2017) is a departure from the earlier features in a number of respects: it is Martel’s first literary adaptation (of Antonio di Benedetto’s 1956 novel of the same name), the first of her features not to be set in Salta, and the first to have a male protagonist. Set in the colonial era, it is also Martel’s first historical film. However, it shares certain aesthetic and thematic tendencies with the earlier films. In particular, early readings of Zama indicate that it will be read as an exploration of the colonial underpinnings of the racist, classist society examined in the earlier features. In addition, Martel has made a number of short films. Of these, Rey Muerto (1995) and Nueva Argirópolis (2010) have attracted the most critical attention.

General Overviews

A number of critics have considered the totality of Martel’s oeuvre, and the three monographs Christofoletti Barrenha 2014, Martin 2016, and Gemünden 2019 share an emphasis on the sensorial aspects of Martel’s films. Christofoletti Barrenha sees these in particular in relation to autobiography, whereas Martin views them politically for their reconfiguring of the relationship between spectator and film, and Gemünden sees in the sensorial a rupture with the temporality of dominant cinema.

  • Christofoletti Barrenha, Natalia. A experiência do cinema Lucrecia Martel: Resíduos do tempo e sons à beira da piscina. Alameda Casa Editorial, 2014.

    A reading of Martel’s first three features that argues that they are inspired by autobiographical memory, and pays attention to the phenomenological and poetic dimensions and the recreation of personal memories.

  • Gemünden, Gerd. Lucrecia Martel: A Poetics of the Senses. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2019.

    DOI: 10.5406/j.ctvscxt84

    Gemünden looks at Martel’s oeuvre and shows how her works challenge film’s usual emphasis on the visual, paying attention to the use of experimental techniques of heightened realism. Gemünden aligns Martel’s filmmaking methods with the work of other international directors who counter the high speed of today’s cinema. He argues that Martel’s radical political critique forces viewers to rethink entitlement, race, class, and exploitation of indigenous peoples within Argentinian society.

  • Martin, Deborah. The Cinema of Lucrecia Martel. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2016.

    The first English-language study, which situates Martel’s work in relation to trends in Argentine filmmaking, art house, and horror cinema, bringing together hermeneutic and phenomenological approaches to film criticism. Through discussions of the interventions made by Martel’s films in matters of class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and Argentine history, it argues that they are deeply political, showing how their creation of uncertainty and doubt allows for glimpses of alternative realities.

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