Written and directed by Nuria Giménez, it combines fragments of Vivian Barrett’s diary with footage by Léon Barrett over the 40s through to the 60s of the 20th century.
When you start watching this documentary, there’s one inescapable and overriding style, Nuria Giménez has chosen to keep things to the purest form which means entirely silent, other than a few sound effects. It’s extremely unusual and a particularly bold choice, which may not pay off for some. The style asks a lot of its audience, in today’s world consistent concentration is far from a given with slowly decreasing attention spans, which will undoubtedly impact the enjoyment of the film.
However, the two parts which make up this film temper that silence, the nostalgic home video footage and a diary of beautifully eloquent writings. While the visual begins in war time, capturing memories of a horrific time and its continuing impact, it gradually moves more into the family home. What then follows is a medley of magnificent footage archiving their experiences and travels. The classic fashion is a joy to see, the quality and variety of the shots is genuinely surprising. You will certainly envy these videos in comparison to what you might find in any average person’s photo gallery.
Vivian’s diary then tops that with a fascinating context of marital troubles and a struggle to connect and find sympathy. Despite the fact that Vivian does not actually exist and the diary was created by Giménez, it is based in some truth but entirely composed by the filmmaker. Her writing flows extremely well, it fits perfectly with the visual and is genuinely touching. It asks a very interesting question of whether knowing it’s creation over reality will make the journey more or less interesting to its viewers. Perhaps not knowing is the best way to go to connect to the character but it’s also extremely creative.
Although it does also beg a question of why not hire an actor to represent Vivian’s voice, to ease the burden of concentration it’s asking? It’s one which is a typical creative decision, whether Giménez may have believed it might take away from the authenticity or actually add distraction is entirely up for debate. The choice to include a small number of sound effects is similarly interesting, they’re sporadic but that means they’re more impactful. They add a tension to the story, especially in the more emotional moments, deepening the meaning and atmosphere.
My Mexican Bretzel is a bold, unique and unusual take on a documentary. The home video footage blends perfectly with the diary entries subtitling it. Nuria Giménez’s writing is brilliant and the visual is stunning, it’s a wonderful range of not just moments but different countries, capturing picturesque landscapes any tourist would be searching for. It’s an interesting experiment and for the most part it pays off but it may be asking a tad too much of a typical modern audience.