Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dios Mio

I saw Los Muertos last night at the Eastman House and it was beatiful, pretensious, pointless, and riveting all at the same time. I have been unable to get it off my mind the entire day and I just feel the need to write all my views on the film before I either forget them or they become more of a jumbled mess.

"Los Muertos" is the second film from Lisandro Alonso, who is known around the world (especially in France) of his realistic documentary style movies about everyday life. This movie in particular follows the journey of a prisoner, Argentino Vargas, to deliever a letter to a friend's daughter and see his own daughter. Simple concept, simple exceution, but the film speaks volume in it's simplicity.

The film starts out suddenly with an out of focus camera moving in between leaves and branches in a forest of Argentina. Yet the camera picks up three bodies, two of them are children dead, and there is a third who appears in the distant and then walks past the camera. It is important to note that Vargas was convicted of murder, the reaosn he is in jail. Yet the viewer can see these bodies as either the work of Vargas in the past, work in the future, or just a sign of something that Vargas saw that drove him to do what he did. We never get this question answer but due to such a scene, whose implications are unknown, we are left in a state of disarry.

Even when we see Vargas, who is in every single scene but one, we feel uneasy about him. He's old, grizzled, smokey eyes, and very quiet. He walks with a childish limp, dragging his feet as he goes from place to place. His posture and attitues are also child-like, indicating that he has been in prison for a while and has not matured much. The camera also seems to feel indifferent about him as well. The cemra does not keep pace with Vargas, it moves slower, doesn't move when he does, or simply just backs off and shows something else we might find more interest, such as the forest that overlooks the river. Try as we might, we can never connect with Vargas. Similar to how Vargas cannot connect with the world. He has been in prison for many years. He left a daughter, who we later find out has a younger son and daughter herself, and she too has left them. As he goes through different episodes on his trip back - buy a gift, buy some bread, have sex with a prostitute - he acts shy and afraid of these people as he seems not to fully understand what is going on. Even his interactions with his grandson is emotionally stunted.

Really though, I think Alonso's main theme throughout the film was on isolation and freedom. In prison, Vergas was confined to a fenced in area. He slept in a small room alone, had to eat out of a tupperware, days spent drinking mate and watching inmates play soccer, and drink from a shared cup of water. Even in the scene he was confined. The cmera was placed very close and rarely left his sight. For seconds it was placed just to watch Vargas sitting and watching. Yet when he leaves prison, the camera becomes free, similar to Vargas. It begins to zoom out, more wide shots, it moves up and down, left to right, back and front. At times it moves out of the presence of Vargas. No longer is the viewer stuck with Vargas, we have a chance to leave his side if we so decide. Yet while we are free, the feeling of isolation overwhelms us. As the camera shows the enitre river and Vargas and his boat is such a small pinpoint on it, he is surrounded by forests on all sides. So while he is free from confinment, he is now a prisoner of his own lonliness and isolation. His prison is now the free world that he can not relate to. This is where I feel the forest is important. Only in the forest, where amny of the peasnats live, can someone be free and confined. Grounded by the forest arround them, they have the ability to do what they want to do. Yet what comes from that is poverty.

The film is diffently not for everyone. It is slow and at times nothing happens. Yet at the same time I was drawn to the ritualistic nature of it. From what I hear Alonso's other film "La Libertad" follows a similar style and I need to head down to Global and grab it.


Post a Comment

<< Home