“Our Lady of the Assassins” starts as if it’s a commercial movie but quickly expands its horizons. It is a shockingly honest representation of how elder males in today’s societies, especially those occupying social positions of wealth and power, treat the youth. The amorous relationship between a rich and well educated middle-age man and a young boy, who was forced, because the poverty of his mother to become not only a petty drug dealer but a paid assassin sucked into the drug gangs’ turf war, became Schroeder’s sad comment about the desperate destiny of the young ones in today’s world.

Is Fernando, a writer who has returned with the intention to retire, to the place of his birth – Medellin (Colombia), in love with Alexis whom he met at a gay party and invited to live together in his spacious condo? Closeness to the youngster’s soul and body makes Fernando feel himself rejuvenated. And Alexis’ spontaneous intelligence made the elder man feel consoled – he likes to share with his new friend stories about his life. But while watching the film we gradually notice that Fernando doesn’t make any effort to help Alexis to become liberated from his drug bosses and, may be, even move toward an educated and honest life. When they both go out of Fernando’s place the boy serves as his bodyguard and several times saved Fernando’s life – Medellin streets are full of not only nostalgic memories and seductive prospects but real dangers.

Through the film Schroeder emphasizes two ways the elder males tend to use young people. First is using them as recruits for wars of profit or as laborers for pittance. Adult males with conservative sensibility use teenagers like this for centuries. But how men with liberal sensibility use youth? There is no socio-systemic sadism towards the young person in relationship between Fernando and Alexis, but instead there are elegantly indifferent narcissistic games on part of the wealthy person. This manner of using youth doesn’t contradict sincere and kind feelings. It only points at their limited scope.

While the “conservative” use of the young is personified in the film by the Colombian drug mafia bosses, the essence of “liberal” use became clear when Alexis is killed by the rivaling gang, and this caused Fernando’s sincere suffering. He was able quickly find another boy of the same age as Alexis – Wilmar, who also grown in the slums and was connected with the drug lords, the main employer of teenagers in this area. Soon Wilmar was also killed by still another rivaling gang – by over-armed kids like Wilmar and Alexis.

Criminal boys-victims passionately pray to the Virgin because of being “bad”, becoming assassins, living in the slums. They pray for an easy and painless death of those whom they are assigned to kill.

The level of realistic acting in the film is quite high, especially the performance by Anderson Ballesteros in the role of Alexis, who has grown since Schroeder’s film into a professional movie actor.

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Barbet Schroeder

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Fernando’s amorously confessing gaze directed at Alexis, communicates bottomless sincerity and unlimited dedication, but it contradicts Fernando’s inability to do anything real to help Alexis to change the direction of his life towards freedom from poverty and independence from the drug lords. Probably, relationship between Fernando and Alexis is part of the same environment of extreme contrast between the haves (choosers and decision makers) and have-nots (passive followers of the circumstances created by others).

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Fernando buys for Alexis gifts, feeds him and feels himself generous and hospitable, a kind of unconditional helper of the needy. It is a very pleasant feeling when the grateful happiness of another person depends on our beneficial deeds.

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To save Fernando‘s life Alexis had to shoot and kill. And after Fernando lectures him about the “badness” of violating God’s Commandment

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Not knowing how to defend himself – he killed for the sake of saving Fernando’s life, Alexis takes all the guilt to himself, his own conscience. That’s how rulers have kept power over population for centuries – not only by direct repression, but using moralistic ideological armament to subdue the uneducated poor, by playing on people’s guilty feelings. Rulers, yes, but aren’t we here talking about a good, kind, generous and disinterested Fernando who took Alexis to live with him in his spacious apartment?

Posted on March 18 2014 –   Barbet Schroeder’s “Our Lady of the Assassins/La virgen de los sicarios” (2000) – Socio-systemic Sadism Towards Young People, And On the Other Hand, Narcissistic Games Of Consuming Their Vitality by Acting-Out Politics