Also, due to the position of the car crash as the linking narrative event, Octavio holds the blame for model Valeria’s injuries that the film’s second story, Daniel y Valeria, reveals will ruin her career & her body leaving her wheelchair bound.
Early in the film, Octavio’s dog engages in his first provoked fight & rapidly the scene cuts to a shot of a television screen. A black & white film shows a hunched figure in a bell tower recognisable as a screen version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956), in which Quasimodo is played by Mexican born Anthony Quinn. The camera draws back to reveal Octavio’s bedroom &, as Susana enters, a second clip of the hunchback is shown & then again interrupted by cutting back to the bedroom where Susana, in thanking Octavio for defending her against her husband, fails to hide her bleeding ear. Not only is the crucifix framed above her head but also she is positioned in the background, framed by Octavio’s legs in the foreground. Here, Susana is positioned at the level of Octavio’s crotch. The camera moves directly from monster in tower (Quasimodo), to semi-virginal mother (Susana) to Octavio’s genital area & thus a site of male sexuality. Later, when Susana finally allows herself to be seduced, Octavio reaches for her exposed thigh first before sliding his hand under her skirt.
Adolescence is a period of abjection where the transition from childhood to adulthood, similar to Quasimodo’s body shape, disturbs identity and borders, and forces the adolescent into an inbetween category. In Amores Perros Octavio is linked to Quasimodo as a symbol of the monstrous. For Octavio, however, the physical markers of adolescence are not as prominent as are the psychological conflicts of teenage angst. Gael García Bernal, playing Octavio, is presented physically as far more ‘Beauty’ than he is ‘Beast’. Yet, it is his behaviour and his desire that becomes beastly, while his body remains beautiful. In this way he becomes Quasimodo’s reciprocal image. Octavio’s abject state is psychological, hovering between boyishness and adult masculinity, whereas Quasimodo’s abject state is due to his bodily form and the isolation he suffers as a result.
Octavio never verbally places Susana in the realm of the immortal or the sacred, but the mise-en-scene & costume choices point to her inclusion in the long history of Marian imagery in Mexico. She is seen most often in her school uniform, blue in colour, & is framed beneath a crucifix on more than one occasion &, indeed, her infant child may connect her even more closely to the Virgin. Sergio de La Mora explains that “in Mexican popular culture, religious imagery is frequently used as the repository of “romantic” male fantasies about women’s sexuality, a figure who is both virgin & whore. The fantasy woman is a contradictory & unattainable revered object of erotic desire who is paradoxically both pure & corrupt, sacred & secular. “
Susana, although not in any way a prostitute, can indeed be categorised in a similar way. She is a young married mother who lives with her husband’s family & is still attending school. Nevertheless, she falls prey to the two-sided masculine construction of Mexican womanhood. Her appearance of almost virginal innocence, read in this context, can only go so far until the point where she becomes a catalyst in the struggle between brothers Octavio & Ramiro. It is as if her defencelessness somehow 40