Nostalgia For The Light
- Director: Patricio Guzman
- Genre: Documentary, Drama
- Details: France/ 90 mins (TBC)
Odd that last week's documentary on performance artist Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present wasn't half as 'arty' as Patricio Guzman's peek into Chile's past, both recent and a little less recent.
Patricio Guzman introduces us to Chile's Atacama Desert; ten thousand feet about sea level, it is the only place on earth where there is no humidity. The driest place in the world has been compared to Mars, which is when Guzman turns his camera skyward and to the heavens. This is where cinematographer Katell Dijan shines; in these moments Nostalgia For The Light plays like a kind of baby Baraka, a Koyaanisqatsi for the cosmos. It's a sheer joy to look at. Astronomer Gaspar Galaz says that because the light we in the sky faded millions of years ago and is only reaching us now, we are looking into the past when we look at the stars.
Nice. Right. So it's about space then? No. When Guzman tears his gaze from the stars back to the earth below he finds that the Atacama has many secrets. It's where Chile's mining thrived in the 19th century, an industry called here close to slavery and where the native Indians were massacred. But that's not all: it's where the bodies of thousands of political prisoners, taken during Pinochet's regime, are buried. Vicky Saaveda's husband is one of the 'disappeared' and, in a tear-ridden declaration to camera, is determined to find his entire body before he dies half a jaw isn't good enough.
Okay. So it's about space and skeletons? That's over simplifying it. It's about how everyone and everything the star that has faded to the bone in the dust are one and the same, linked together by more than just calcium. The stargazing has even helped some of the families overcome their loss: 'Astronomy has helped me, it gives another dimension to the pain.'
It's an interesting idea and so much to ponder over but I found the marriage of everything too disparate, however. I didn't buy it or at least didn't buy it the way Patricio Guzman wants me to. It felt that the link was too tenuous at there are hints that the director feels that too: every so often the special effect of tiny star lights slip down the screen as victim's families talk about their loss. To me, it was a reminder of the theme that everything is linked but if you have to remind the audience so heavy handedly maybe it's because it's not strong enough in the first place.
But because the director is so convinced of it, because its put together so beautifully and because it really touches the heart, there is an encouragement not to dismiss it on first viewing. Nostalgia For The Light definitely deserves another watch. And everything here may just might click together for some lucky souls out there.
Review by entertainment.ie | 15:17 | Thursday 5th July 2012 | Movie Review
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