An adaptation of a novel by Laura Esquivel, ‘Como Agua Para Chocolate’ (Like Water for Chocolate) is a Latin American expression which refers to the near boiling temperature of water for use in the making of chocolate, and is, figuratively, a reference to passion. In this tale of early 20th century, pre-revolution Mexico, a family has fallen on hard times in the years following the death of its patriarch and breadwinner.
Passion is embodied in two young lovers, Pedro and Tita, upon whom a cruel family tradition is imposed, which forces Tita away from her lover and into a lifelong, chaste and unmarried subservience to her mother, Mama Elena. Pedro wishes to be near Tita and is obliged to marry Tita’s eldest sister, Rosaura, whom he does not love and who resents and ostracizes her younger sister. Tita responds by serving up a kind of magical cooking, by which she vents her frustration and expresses her passion for Pedro, and, in the process, affects the lives of everyone around her.
The film takes a circuitous route through changing relationships and altering states of mind until it reaches a dramatic climax of cinematic proportion. The story is supposed to reflect the wider, political events of its time, with Tita and Pedro cast as the oppressed people of pre-revolution Mexico and Mama Elena as the domineering Mexican elite, all expressed via use of a distinctly Latin American aesthetic called magic realism.
Magic realism is a vivid form of art that can be applied across different media (literature, film, painting), in which reality and imagination are juxtaposed. It seeks to reconcile reality with the symbolic, subconscious language of mind. Upon its release in 1993, Like Water For Chocolate became a US box office smash, living up to its popularity as a novel and breaking all US sales records for a Spanish speaking film. It was produced and directed by Alfonso Arau, a successful Mexican and US actor whose ex-wife, Laura Esquivel, wrote both the original novel and its adaptation.