Synopsis for El Último Sueño de Frida y Diego
1. The opening of the roads • 2. Homage • 3. Return to me
4. Piety • 5. The call • 6. The world • 7. Without you • 8. Dressing the illusion
9. Memorizing life • 10. To paint a new Frida • 11. A permit to enter the world
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), November 2, 1957. The year of Diego Rivera’s death and three years after the death of his wife, painter Frida Kahlo.
Diego Rivera visits a cemetery where villagers have gathered for the annual ritual to honor departed loved ones and summon them to return from the underworld. A few villagers recognize the famous painter and dare to approach. They joke affectionately and then explain their ritual, emphasizing that it is faith in your soul that brings back the dead. As the villagers depart, Diego calls out to Frida, revealing his fears and loneliness and imploring her to return to him. Diego’s reverie is interrupted by an old woman selling flowers. After Diego leaves, the old woman reveals herself as La Catrina, Keeper of the Dead.
In Mictlán, the Aztec underworld, Catrina summons Frida to arise and return to visit Diego. Frida defies the powerful Catrina, refusing to believe that Diego has called her. Catrina insists that Frida must return to accompany her dying husband on his journey to the underworld.
Frida, having found release in death from both her mercurial relationship and agonizing physical pain, questions why she would return to the world of the living. She prefers her refuge of darkness and silence. Other departed souls playfully implore Frida to return to Diego, but Frida refuses.
Catrina arrives to gather those who have been summoned, chasing off a young man trying to sneak back to the living world after he failed to return to the underworld in time the previous year.
Frida notices a young actor, Leonardo, practicing his impersonation of Greta Garbo. He wants to go back as Garbo, to please a fan of the actress who waits every year hoping for a visit from his long unseen (and assumed departed) idol.
A fellow artistic spirit, Leonardo encourages Frida to return for herself, her art, and the chance to paint a new Frida without pain or anguish. He dresses her in her trademark clothes, adorning her hair with ribbons and flowers. Catrina returns, calling out the names of those who have been summoned, and readies them for their return. She calls on Frida, who continues to protest. Catrina notices Leonardo in his Garbo costume and forbids his ruse as Greta Garbo has not yet died. Frida pleads for him, and Catrina relents.
At the last minute, Frida decides she will return to the world of the living. Catrina allows it but not before laying out the rules: The visit is for 24 hours only, and there is to be no touching the living—“A caress can cost you the memory of pain.” As Diego continues to summon Frida from above, she and the other departed souls begin their return.
LIVING WORLD— DIEGO’S MURAL: DREAM OF A SUNDAY AFTERNOON IN ALAMEDA CENTRAL PARK
1. To paint the absence • 2. To return • 3. Go on, time runs out
FRIDA’S BLUE HOUSE
4. Return to the Blue House • 5. Enter the gaze • 6. The memory of pain
WORLD OF ART
7. Invitation • 8. The end of the Day of the Dead
9. Searching for the god of Mictlán 10. Levitation
In the world of the living, Diego is bereft of inspiration. He is unable to paint, unable to embrace his mortality and tormented by the absence of Frida when she suddenly appears to him. Diego’s pleas have been answered and Frida is again in the world of the living.
Frida and Diego find themselves together in Alameda Park, strolling among living and departed souls together. Frida is overjoyed to be without pain and part of the vibrant life around her. Diego pleads for an embrace which Frida cannot give.
A passing beggarwoman is a reminder of the darker world around them. Diego feels the presence of death and is reminded of his own mortality as the two artists mourn the state of the city and its broken, beautiful past.
Frida finds Leonardo and learns that he has visited Greta Garbo’s admirer, fulfilling the man’s fantasy of meeting the movie star and providing the departed actor with a successful performance.
Diego leads Frida back to her beloved home, Casa Azul, where she must confront the realities of her past life and the limitations of her return. Leonardo encourages Frida to paint. Diego begs her to embrace him, and Catrina reminds Frida that her time is limited and she must not touch the living. Frida tries to paint but, no longer having a reflection in the physical world, she cannot summon her primary subject—her own image. Diego comforts Frida, offers assistance, and asks for forgiveness for their difficult past. Suddenly she embraces him and is racked by the returning pain of her living existence. Diego lovingly encourages her to paint as a distraction. Images of herself that Frida created throughout her life appear, beckoning her into a world of art. Diego and Frida are surrounded by a timeless world of blue.
As dawn breaks, Frida and Diego cling to their hope of staying together, but it is time for Frida to return to the underworld. As Leonardo bids a final farewell to the world of the living, Catrina gathers the departed souls for their return. She is angry to notice Frida’s absence but keeps her procession moving.
Alone, Frida and Diego recognize that they cannot live forever in a dream world of art. With a final hope of being with Frida forever, Diego pleads for the gods of the underworld to call him back with her. Catrina appears and Diego tells her his time has come. Catrina reminds him only Mictlantecutli, God of the underworld, can decide his time. Frida begs her to help, and Diego’s journey begins. As they approach the underworld, Catrina calls out to Mictlantecutli who appears and brings Diego into the world of the departed.
As the departed souls welcome them, Frida and Diego whisper to one another, united for eternity in the underworld.