Pereda’s films pass through a transitional period; Los mejores temas was probably a conscious farewell to a filmic representation system while Matar extraños turned out to be an enigmatic first test; El palacio is a new attempt at renovation, an experiment. These last two films show a novel element —the shifting of the family and domestic spheres to a public and political space. Whereas Matar extraños used revolution as its focal concept, in this enigmatic film the microphysics of power is the permeating idea.
The opening wide shot is brilliant; the 17 women who appear in this film are washing their teeth at the same time. Among this group there are little girls, young and old women, and they are not at a bathroom but at a patio filled with large sinks. Their activity unites them, though their experiences and, eventually, their functions differ. Where are they? For several minutes the only thing we will see are the diverse cleaning-related actions performed by these women. Everything happens in an old house, without any indication of its location. Abstraction and routine. Pereda is capable of filming someone hanging clothes to dry or making a bed as if those were aesthetic events.
A donkey wonders around and imposes a comical tone for a moment; but a donkey is an animal used for servitude. And the title of the film mentions a palace.
Women can be seen as a reserve army. Are they training? Off-screen elements are widely used as part of the staging; and that which is not seen is power, which nonetheless acts and can be heard in the film. Power poses questions and assigns salaries; it determines schedules, it demands punctuality and flexibility. Pereda makes bosses invisible though they are included, off-screen, during the interviews (which is a characteristic of Pereda’s poetics) where they are present to check the qualities of their potential employees.
And, as if all of these were not enough, there is a glorious shot which shows the solidarity shared by female workers, a priceless embrace between two women.
Blurb taken from FICUNAM.