With her award-winning feature-film debut, La Ciénaga (The Swamp) (2001), writer-director Lucrecia Martel emerged as one of the brightest figures of the new Argentinean cinema. In her follow up, the 2004 Cannes Film Festival Competition entry, LA NIÑA SANTA (THE HOLY GIRL), Martel intimately explores the burgeoning sexuality and religious fervor of two teenage girls, Amalia (MARIA ALCHÉ) and her best friend, Josefina (JULIETA ZYLBERBERG). Artfully piecing together a mosaic of nuanced details, fragments of sounds, and small moments, Martel creates a potent and specific portrait of adolescent life.
In the town of La Ciénaga, Amalia lives with her attractive, divorced mother, Helena (MERCEDES MORÁN), and her uncle, Freddy (ALEJANDRO URDAPILLETA), in the crumbling, run-down Hotel Termas, which her family owns and runs.
After choir rehearsals the girls gather in the parish church for further instruction in faith and vocation. What does God want from me? How do I discern between the temptation of the Devil and the calling of God? In between the teachings, the girls gossip and whisper secretively.
The lives of the girls and their families intersect with those of a group of visiting orhinolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat specialists) staying at the hotel for a medical convention, including the married, middle-aged Dr. Jano (CARLOS BELLOSO).
One day, a crowd of people gather in the street to watch a man play an unusual, exotic instrument: a theremin. Amalia is in the crowd when a man standing behind her presses himself sexually against her. Later, in the hotel, she discovers that this man is Dr. Jano, one of the doctors attending the conference.
Amalia finds herself drawn to the Doctor and for days she spies on him. Dr. Jano never notices her presence, but he does notice her mother, Helena. Helena greatly enjoys the attention from this man, but she has little hope as she knows he is married and has a family.
Days afterward Amalia confides in Josefina what occurred in the street with Dr. Jano and of her secret mission: to save one man from sin.
Dr. Jano becomes caught up in Amalia’s web of good intentions and the respected doctor finds his world is on the brink of collapse when her adolescent obsession sets off a chain reaction of social catastrophe.
Understanding the temptation of good - and the evil it causes - LA NIÑA SANTA delicately explores themes of sin, frustration and desire.