With the release in 1992 of Like Water for Chocolate, El Mariachi, and Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down, Mexican cinema was
once again gaining international acclaim. In this essay I will explore in detail the curious
Mexican film, Like Water for Chocolate (Como Agua Para Chocolate). Like Water for Chocolate,
upon first viewing, is likely to create a certain feeling of uneasiness in the viewer. Yet, it
is doubtful that the viewer in this initial experience will notice the complex of
relationships I describe herein. The analysis I describe is one arrived at after repeated
viewings, analysis, and research.
Like Water for Chocolate does not lend itself well to linear analysis. To subject the
film to a traditional, western analysis, or even to a strict close reading, would likely
provide little insight. Like Water for Chocolate is not a linear film, it is more configural--
narrative in structure.
A close analysis only brings one back to larger overarching
structures. On close inspection it appears quite ephemeral, it seems to dissolve away. It
is only by standing back and looking at the completed craftwork that one sees the
patterns. It is overtly simple. The metaphors are stock. It is merely a love story with a
magical penchant. But concealed at its heart is a revolution, a breaking of oppression, a
liberation of the spirit. Like Water for Chocolate is a tenuous nexus of narrative structures,
sensuality, and metaphor. These shifting, seemingly insubstantial components, when
combined, create a work of substantial subversive strength.
The film Like Water for Chocolate is based on the book Como Agua Para Chocolate by
screenwriter Laura Esquivel. The original 1989 novel was a bestseller in Mexico for two
years before being released in the U.S. in 1992. The English version was translated by...