Los Ausentes – Nicolas Pereda (2014)

Knowing Nicolas Pereda’s early work, I’d be inclined to say that his medium long film Los Ausentes marks a new era in his filmmaking. The trailer already looked haunting and different from Pereda’s usual filmmaking. The colour palette is the same, the actors have the same aura around them. And yet, and yet…

Los Ausentes is, first of all, about an old, fragile man who loses his house near the beach. I assume he has lived there all his life, so loss (absence) is at the heart of Pereda’s film. It’s the very core of it, and Pereda perfects his usual aesthetics in order to transmit this feeling of loss to the viewer. Los Ausentes stands out in Pereda’s work because of its camera work. The director has always favoured long-takes, temps mort, and a very minimalist storytelling. But this film goes a bit further. In fact, it reminded me strongly on the films of Béla Tarr and the fascinating work by cinematographer Fred Kelemen (who himself made films, amongst them Krisana).

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Pereda uses a kind of independent camera, which I have marvelled upon when I saw Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies (2000). This is also when I first understood Daniel Frampton’s filmind, film as thinking independently. If you put Los Ausentes and Werckmeister Harmonies next to each other, you can see that they both make use of an independent camera. The camera is not really following the protagonist, unless the character is walking down a road. The camera has its own mind and moves to whatever place or whatever action it would like to record.

I haven’t seen it to such an extent in Pereda’s previous films. I even wonder whether it is an homage to Tarr. The beginning must be at least a very obvious wink, starting with a medium shot of a cow facing us. And then, slowly, very slowly, the camera zooms out and reveals first some kind of structure, which then turns out to be a window frame. The camera zooms further out, very smoothly, totally beautifully, and reveals the old man sitting at a table eating. If faithful Tarr-viewers are not reminded of the famous opening scene in Damnation or the beginning of The Man from London, I don’t know what those people have done with their lives 🙂

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In any case, this independent camera transmits the film’s idea of loss, of the absent, fabulously. It feels as though there was a ghost walking around, looking at things or moving places. At times, we see the protagonists. At others, we don’t. But nevertheless, we can feel an eerie presence. There is someone there with us, but who is it? Los Ausentes is a perfect example of how aesthetics can convey absence. I had come across this very subject in my research on the films of Lav Diaz, but Diaz is doing this in a very different way. This independent camera movement also feeds well into the idea of the fragile, old man losing his sanity. Again, this is a theme that pops up comparatively often in slow films, and it is interesting to see how directors deal with this differently.

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When I saw the old man standing somewhere in the woods, with his skinny back towards me, I wasn’t quite sure whether what I saw was supposed to be real, or whether Pereda wanted me to believe it was a dream. There’s only ambient sound, and because I was in a state of dreaming already because of the superb camera work, I wasn’t so sure anymore what I was seeing or what I was asked to believe. This became even more difficult when the old man’s younger self appeared and it wasn’t clear anymore what happened when and where.

I began to wonder whether the title Los Ausentes applied to more than just the film, because in the end, you do lose yourself in the film. You might be physically present when you watch the film, but where are you mentally? Are you home? In the cinema? In an imagined Mexico? In a dream? In real life? I would say that Los Ausentes is Pereda’s strongest film. As I said before, it looks like his previous films but it feels very different. The combination of narrative and aesthetics is just right, perfect even, and I think that the length of the film – medium length – helps to keep the film focused. It feels like Pereda’s most polished film and I wonder where he will go from here. I hope that we will see more of this!

Malaventura – Michel Lipkes (2011)

The last day in the life of an elderly man – this is the entire premise of Michel Lipkes’ wonderful debut feature. Once more, I have to bow to the sheer quality of Mexican slow films. There seems to be a real hub for it over there and I begin to wonder whether it would be good to study them separately, not so much as part of Slow Cinema, but as a specific form in Mexican cinema. Leaving the cinematic slowness behind for a second, and just see those films as an output of Mexican independent cinema.

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Malaventura is a very meditative film. Lipkes has an eye for cinematic beauty in his shots, and the film is thus interspersed with wonderfully photographic frames, which are simply lovely to look at. They help to generate a contemplative atmosphere, to slow down the pace of the film, and thereby give the film a real feeling of its showing the last day of a man’s life. Several frames have a dark, and perhaps sinister nature to them. Some scenes certainly reminded me of Béla Tarr. In an extended scene shot in a local bar, several people are seen drinking and playing cards. A woman takes care of her finger nails. The very characteristic of this scene creates a mysterious feeling. Is what we see actually real, or is the old man merely imagining it?

Voice and sounds don’t fit the images we see. The shots have a certain grey tone to them. Smoke is hanging in the bar. The camera moves between faces of gambling men. The entire set-up is similar to those famous Béla Tarr pub scenes, especially those in Sátántangó (1994), or even in The Man from London (2007). Indeed, the pub/bar scene in the latter is rather different, but you can definitely see a degree of influence of Tarr on Lipkes’ filmmaking. Perhaps this is a coincidence. Then again, Tarr seems to be everywhere. I think he’s been a huge influence on several directors I’m speaking about on this website.

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In many scenes, the man, who appears small compared to the city’s vastness, is seen walking from one point to another. It is not clear at the beginning where he is going or whether he has a destination at all. I thought at the beginning that he was just walking. But he does actually walk to a very specific place, which becomes important at the end of the film. It is unclear what the man is really up to. It’s a clever way of constructing the film because the viewer is left wondering what it is that s/he is actually observing. First of all, the man seems to walk to an unknown destination, if he has one at all.

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Then he is also seen in a park, selling balloons; a sad image, the small man in a long shot, the colours of the natural surrounding degraded in the editing processes, but the colours of the balloons in their full beauty. The contrast between the suffering, stooped, even almost lifeless man on a bench and the colourful balloons flying almost free above the man’s head, in the sky, a sky that promises freedom, is startling. Precisely because this is such a startling contrast, this was also my favourite shot. Lipkes certainly created a simple image with a lot of possible readings. There is nothing much you need to think about. It isn’t a complex image. It doesn’t appeal to the intellectual mind. It just wants you to see what’s there.

Lipkes’ film is rather short. With only 67 minutes it is one of the shorter slow films I have mentioned so far. But this is, I have to say, it’s strength. Lipkes has used those 67 minutes to create a very strong portrait of a dying man, going about his seemingly daily life. It is an even more astonishing work because it is a debut feature. I’m sure that Lipkes has a promising future ahead of him. I’m looking forward to his next film!

 

Perpetuum Mobile – Nicolas Pereda (2009)

Boredom – this word could be considered as a one-word summary of Nicolas Pereda’s Perpetuum Mobile (2009). Not so much of the viewer’s state. Personally, I didn’t get bored. It is more a state of boredom the characters evoke. But then, boredom is not the right word, though perhaps the most adequate in the English language. I have come across a similar effect in my writing on Lav Diaz’s Melancholia (2008), in which I felt compelled to switch to my native language and use the German word “Langeweile”.

The difference is pretty simple. Boredom implies negativity. It is an expression of a lack of motivation, of interest. The way “Langeweile” is used these days in German implies negativity, too. Yet, the original meaning comes from its literal translation: long duration, a long while. If you experience Langeweile, you spend time without doing anything profound. You probably just sit somewhere and stare at nothing in particular.

Perpetuum Mobile is one of those films, which asks for the German term. I was vaguely aware of just how much time is spent on the characters doing nothing. But once I put the photoset together for my Slow Cinema Tumblr, it jumped right into my face. Pereda’s film is more than his other films one of waiting, of sitting around waiting for something or someone. It is mainly the latter; Gabino and his mother waiting for Rodriguez, Gabino’s brother; Gabino and his co-worker waiting for work; Gabino waiting for a man, who has just fooled him, to return his long-lost dog; Gabino and his co-worker waiting for a customer – a man who has just been thrown out of his flat because he hasn’t paid his rent – to find a place where he can store his furniture.

Waiting – perhaps this would be a good word to describe Perpetuum Mobile. This would also describe the viewer’s state in one word. The film starts off very slow, perversely enough with a rather slow subject; an elderly woman, who, because of her age and failing health, walks very slowly through her house. It sets the tone of the film, although it is unclear till close to the end who that woman is. In effect, this matters little – we dive straight into the story of Gabino, a moving truck driver, who has a kind of “can’t be bothered”, “not now”, “leave me alone” atmosphere around him, especially when he is with his mother.

And yet, he is a funny character. There is something about him that made me smile more often than not. Maybe it was the situational humour. More and more often he finds himself being hired by men or women who leave their partners, sometimes without their knowing. He becomes an in-between character, a public guest so to speak in a rather private matter. And once he and his co-worker have moved everything into their truck, as ordered, they are asked to return everything. The person has changed his or her mind. These situations make for a good contrast between Gabino’s and other people’s lives. There is something happening in their lives, while Gabino has way too much empty time at hand. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be a way out, either. There is talk about a new job, but nothing comes out of it.

It is not the first Pereda film I have seen. He uses the same actors and characters, and after a while I had the strong urge to watch his films back to back. I have the feeling that Pereda works in similar veins as Tsai Ming-liang did. He uses the same actor/character, and a new film means a new stage in character development. Of course, I could be wrong. But given that slow film directors often build on the same cast/crew combination, the idea is, in fact, not all too farfetched.

Perpetuum Mobile certainly isn’t Pereda’s strongest film. I find Summer of Goliath to be a stronger cinematic work. However, this may derive from Pereda’s different approach. In his later works, he tends to blur the line between fiction and fact. Interviews with characters exercise a remarkable strength on his work, which I have always found intriguing. But it seems to be a characteristic of his later works. Let’s see what the future brings. Perpetuum Mobile definitely belongs to Pereda’s more entertaining works. So do catch it, if you get the chance.

Interview with Yulene Olaizola (Fogo)

My thanks goes out to Yulene Olaizola, who has kindly agreed to this brief email interview. Her film Fogo (2012) is a fascinating portrait of a fading landscape and its people. Especially her accounts on how she met the people on the island reminds me of my own experience while making the short documentary A Bunch of Gentlemen (2011). A real pleasure. This interview is a nice insight into filmmaking again. Thank you, Yulene.

First of all, Fogo is set in Canada, quite far away from your native Mexico. How did you come across the subject matter?

I was looking for an escape from my daily life in Mexico city, some kind of an artistic adventure. A close friend sent me the info about the new Residency Program from the Fogo Island Arts Corporation. I had only one day to apply. I sent a brief description of my intentions on doing a film in the Island during the 3 moths period of the residency. It was a very vague idea. I just said that I was going to mix documentary and fiction, and that I was going to work with non professional actors, people from the Island.

Three or four months later I received news from the Fogo Island Arts Corporation. They accepted my application and invited me to go there and work. I decided to go there from September – December 2012.

Was it difficult to convince the people on the island to make this film? Have they actually seen the finished product?

It was not difficult to convince them. The complicated part was to find the characters, but once I did that, somehow I knew they would accept. The main character Norman Foley is retired, so I knew he would have the time to participate in the film. I met him at some point during my second month living in Fogo. I was already worried about what I was going to do with the film. I did not have any ideas yet. But I met Norman at a partridge berry festival and he offered me to show me the woods. The very next day we went for a walk trough the woods. Very quickly we became friends and I knew he could be the main character. Soon he introduced me to his friend Ron, and his dogs Patch and Thunder, and together we went to a cabin in the woods; that day I decided to do a film where Norm, Ron and the dogs would go to a cabin. That was the first idea that detonated the simple story of Fogo.

When I watched the film, it was difficult to establish whether your film is fiction or documentary. This appears to be quite common in films that are nowadays termed “Slow Cinema”. What exactly is your film, fact or fiction?

The storyline is fiction, the idea of the Island having to be abandoned is something that I came up with after doing some research on the History on Newfoundland. I read about the resettlement program. It was an organized approach to centralize the population into growth areas. The Government of Canada did three attempts of resettlement between 1954 and 975, which resulted in the abandonment of 300 communities and nearly 30,000 people were moved.

I wanted to portray Fogo Island as if a new resettlement program was happening, without explaining the cause, which can be because economical reasons or something more apocalyptic where the life in the Island is simply dying. In order to achieve this fiction idea, I had to shoot only in abandoned houses, avoiding to see the real Fogo, the modern houses or highways.

Even though the actors where pretending to be living in a fictional situation, all the dialogs where improvised and the shooting was made with a documentary approach, with only two members in the crew, Diego García, the cinematographer, and me. Most of the situations are fiction but based on true events that we experienced while living in the island. For example, going to the cabin with the dogs, drinking a rum bottle in a tiny cabin lit up only by a kerosene lamp, cutting a tree in the middle of the woods all alone, spending time contemplating nature with the only company of two dogs, etc.

Some seconds where made by documenting real situation, like Ron playing with the dogs in the grass, Norm and Ron trying to get warm near a bonfire while is snowing, etc.

I am not sure if the right term to call this movie or other similar approaches to cinema is the term slow. I rather consider this film as a minimalistic bet. Where you have minimum resources and you have to make the most of averting, so in order to work with non-professional actors, you use aspects of their real life to nourish the story and the atmosphere. Where the script is made of contributions from everyone, the actors, the cinematographer and the director.

There is this overwhelming aspect of solitude apparent in your film. Is this a topic that came with the subject matter, or did it, in fact, coincide with a general interest in the aspects of loneliness and mans coping mechanisms?

When I am thinking about a new project, I never think about what subjects I would like to work with. In this case solitude, melancholy, abandonment, are ideas that came to me while living there. But these subjects or ideas are not what you would see if you travel to Fogo Island for a week. The people from Fogo is usually very warm, happy people, and the place is simply beautiful. But once I started talking deeply with the people, especially with the older ones, I discovered a huge nostalgic feeling about the past, when life in the island was different. People have a strong connection with their roots, a feeling of belonging to a place, that you don’t longer find in people who live in the city for example. Somehow I wanted to relate my film to all this ideas but with a fictional pretext.

What I found particularly strong was your exploration of people’s attachment to home. Even though this is set in Canada, is this something that resonates with yourself?

It not a subject matter that I have considered before in my films, or at least not consciously. When a film is born because of a place, I think that the first thing you want to do as a filmmaker is to document the beauties or interesting things about the place, in order to share that with other people. And that is exactly what I wanted to do, but beauty for me is not exactly the nice photo that you see in a truistic image.

I have already mentioned the term “Slow Cinema”. Your film is contemplative in many respects. It invites us to dwell in the surrounding as well as on the fate of the characters who decide to remain on the island. Do you think that your film is slow? Where does this contemplative aesthetic have its roots?

I enjoy the cinema that does not rush to take you to one place. I feel as a spectator, that I need time to transport my self from the cinema theater to the reality presented in a movie. In Hollywood style, in 4 or 5 shots of only a few second each, suddenly you are in the antique Pompei, or in another planet. They gave you the basic information about these universes, but they never give you the time to explore them or to feel them.

What I try to do is to give time to enjoy and discover all those details that can be found after living there for almost 4 months. I always try to do that in my films, and in each occasion, the concept of time is different. In this case, the time that passes in a slow way, or the contemplative mood, is related to how the people live there, always in a close relationship with nature, with weather. And of course time in places like Fogo seems to occur slower that in a city for a example.

I found your film highly photographic. Do you have a background in photography? What is your background in general?

Before I decided to study cinema I did a workshop in photography during high school. I thought I wanted to be a cinematographer, but when I entered film school I realized I wanted to direct. I do like to contribute as much as I can in all the different aspects of making a film, cinematography, sound, editing, production, etc. That is something you have to do if you don´t have the resources. I have produced all my films myself. In this case it was the first time I worked with Diego, the cinematographer. We went to film school together. It was a very close and special collaboration.

You are one of several emerging directors from Mexico, who astonish with their strong works. Do you think there is a certain “New Wave” of Mexican Cinema? I’m speaking in particular of Pereda, Gonzales-Rubio, Vargas as slow-film directors.

It is always difficult to define what is a new wave, or who is part of it. I think there are many new filmmakers from the past 10 years that have won recognition at film festivals, but that are still almost unknown for the Mexican audiences. There are other filmmakers with whom I feel close to, because we are friends, and because we have similar approaches to making films with low budgets and with no commercial interests. Between this filmmakers are: The Axolote group: Rubén Imaz, Matias Meyer and Michel Lipkes. Also the couple Israel Cardenas and Laura Amelia Guzman. Nicolas Pereda. Pedro González. Julio Hernández Cordón, among others.

How are your films distributed?

My films have been only distributed in commercial cinemas in Mexico, with the effort of myself and small Mexican distribution companies like Interior 13 an Circo. Only my first film Shakespeare and Victor Hugo´s Intimacies has been released in TV in iberoamerica, thanks to a deal with Ibermedia program.

I saw that you are already working on a new project. What is this about and when will it be released?

It is once again a very low budget film. Is about 3 Spanish conquistadors who climbed up the iconic Mexican volcano The Popocatépetl, in an expedition in 1519. Even though it is a historic film, the resources we had were minimum, three guys wearing costumes climbing a mountain. It is a co direction with Ruben Imaz and will be released some time next year.

 

Day 20 – Interview with the Earth (Pereda)

Quite a while ago, I watched Summer of Goliath (2010) by Nicolas Pereda, a hugely interesting slow-film director from Mexico. Pereda is not only interesting because of the aesthetics he employs. He is also living in Canada, if I’m not completely mistaken. This means that he always returns “home” for filming. For me, it’s bound to result in an interesting, but also blurred line between objectivity and subjectivity. This isn’t the only blurred line in his films, though.

Pereda is known for his documentary / fiction hybrids. Interview with the Earth (2008), a short film of only twenty minutes, is in no way different from Pereda’s feature films. In fact, it contains material, he later used in Summer.

Interview with the Earth (2009), Nicolas Pereda

The opening of the film brought up one desire: to watch all of his films in the successive orders they were released. When I saw the elderly woman with a chicken on her lap, and the two boys – Nico and Amalio – I had the instant need to watch all of his films. I believe that Pereda’s films are closely linked to one another. It’s a bit like Tsai Ming-liang’s films. Every film has a specific link to the following work. You can watch them as separate, individual films, but the overall message only comes through if you watch them in their successive order.

For Pereda, I would say, it is similar, though I cannot say for sure as I haven’t seen enough films. It is only a feeling after all. The title of his short, Interview with the Earth, makes perhaps little sense at the beginning. You can probably figure it out at some point. But the embodiment of the title appeared right at the end of the film, when Nico recorded sound on a cemetery with a boom and a mic. He is quite literally conducting an interview with the earth, though not by asking questions. Simply by listening, an important asset to have as a viewer of slow films. 

Compared to SummerInterview is a striking experience because of its sound. Earlier this year, I wrote about the effects of music and dialogue on the perceived speed of films. I used the context of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Mekong Hotel. Pereda made extensive use of music and sounds here. I couldn’t decipher the instruments that were used, but they created a strangely haunting atmosphere throughout the entire film. In the film itself, we learn about the death of David, a boy who fell off a mountain when picking cacti. Nico and Amalio are interviewed about this event, and there’s also talk about sacrificing a chicken, and burying it on the spot David died.

Interview with the Earth (2009), Nicolas Pereda

The haunting music underlines the seemingly omnipresent aspect of death perfectly. There was something that made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Nothing grave, obviously. But what does this music represent? The ghost of David? The haunted or even haunting soul of the dead? In comparison to Mekong Hotel the music in Interview did not increase the perceived speed of the film. I’m not entirely sure why. Apichatpong used simple and slow guitar rhythms, which, on their own, shouldn’t have sped up the film. But they did somehow. It’s a curious thing I’d like to explore in more detail one day.

Anyway, Pereda is one of the discoveries of 2013 I’m really happy with. He’s a great filmmaker, and his films are worth your attention.

Day 6 – Colossal Youth (Costa)

I’m back on the European continent, after having made (film) trips to Mexico, the Philippines and China. I’m in Portugal this time, the home of filmmaker Pedro Costa. It is only the second of his films I have seen. The first one was Bones (1997), which I couldn’t quite get through at the time. I can now see, though, what type of slow-film director Costa is.

Colossal Youth tells the story of Ventura, an immigrant in his 70s, who, like many other immigrants, has been relocated to a new housing estate near Lisbon. He appears to live in the past. The present is a confusing structure he cannot seem to handle. He is confused as to where he really lives, I believe: past? Present? In his old slum? In the new estate? For me he is a walking ghost.

Colossal Youth (2006), Pedro Costa
Colossal Youth (2006), Pedro Costa

Similar to Nicolas Pereda from Mexico, Costa merges documentary and fiction. It is often difficult to tell what is scripted and what isn’t. Sometimes there is the strong sense that the camera simply records without the interpretation of the filmmaker. At other times, you can feel the presence of someone behind the camera.

First of all, very obvious, Costa is not a filmmaker who assigns a great role to outdoor spaces, especially to landscapes. This film in particular is set mainly indoors. In parts, it reminds me of the look of Oxhide I, in that we spend a considerable amount of time in very dark spaces, and the only light is of somewhat greenish colour.

There is, however, and interesting contrast in the film. As I already mentioned, Ventura is relocated to a new housing estate. Both the slums and the estate have their own set of lighting and colours. Ventura moves freely between both in order to see people he knows. We therefore switch between darkness (the slums) and brightness (the new estate). While the changing colour scheme seems to be a natural thing – and indeed, it comes in handy – I wonder whether there is a subtle message behind it.

Colossal Youth (2006), Pedro Costa
Colossal Youth (2006), Pedro Costa

I never got the feeling that Ventura feels very comfortable in his new surrounding. It doesn’t mean that I preferred him being and remaining in the slum. But somehow, he appeared to me more natural in his behaviour. So perhaps, while the above mentioned brightness is natural and most likely not intended, we could say that the brightness – the white sterile walls and the bright light – can function as an indicator of where Ventura feels more himself. I’m really not sure about this. It’s merely an idea.

Costa, to my mind, is the only slow-film director who picks up the issue of immigration of former colonised to the countries of their colonisers, in this case Portugal. Portugal is by far not the only country that faces this issue. France has seen similar waves of immigrants, but curiously enough they never appear in film, or not in a way that does not make the audience loath them (moral panics anyone?). There are few films that handle this issue in a sensitive manner, and Costa’s Colossal Youth is one of them.

What he has in common with other slow-film directors is the depiction of loss and poverty. I pointed out earlier that these two are of exceptional significance in Slow Cinema. And his films, too, are in one way or another connected to the Third World, something I also mentioned briefly earlier. Costa is very different (from the filmmakers I study), but he nonetheless shares many characteristics. The themes of poverty and loss are my main interest here. Somehow I think that Tsai Ming-liang and Albert Serra are the only two filmmakers who add a bit of humour to their slow films. Slow Cinema appears to be a very sad film genre!

Day 2 – Alamar (Gonzales-Rubio)

I stick to slow films that make me sea sick. Vivan las Antipodas was the first film, but obviously not the last one to confuse my perception of where the actual horizon in a cinematic frame is. A central focus point. Just something for the purpose of orientation.

The similarities between Antipodas and Alamar don’t stop there. True to the matter, I have pointed out the specific opposition of rural/urban in Antipodas, which is not a dominant theme in the film, but a vital one for my interest. Alamar goes even further, and is, similar to Michela Occhipinti’s Letters from the Desert (2012) a subtle attack at the way we live; in the West, or in urban centres, or in rich countries. Whatever you choose – it is subtly attacked in this lovely and very peaceful tale of a father-son relationship.

The opening of the film tells us in brief about Jorge and Roberta, a couple for three and a half years, parents to son Natan, who got divorced based on, I find, striking “differences”. One aspect is the different perception of reality. In a voiceover, Roberta tells us: “Look at how we live now. He’s in the middle of the jungle in the sea, in the middle of nowhere. I couldn’t live here. I would die in a place like this.” Roberta is from Italy. The slow backward life clashes with a modern lifestyle. The product is a divorce; Roberta takes custody of Natan.

Alamar, Pedro Gonzales-Rubio
Alamar, Pedro Gonzales-Rubio

In Alamar, five-year old Natan joins his father for a “holiday trip” to the roots of basic living. Of living with nature. Jorge is keen on teaching his son how to fish, how to scale the fish, how to make a life and enjoy life faraway from modernity and civilisation. Just the way he himself had grown up.

The film is almost entirely set on the sea (hence the sea sickness). We’re either on a boat, or in a hut built on some pillars, surrounded by water. There is water everywhere, and this is the first slow film I have encountered where the sea plays such an important role. The sea stands for freedom, for vastness, for fullness, too. In many ways, what we associate now with urban spaces, especially the fullness and freedom, comes from a very basic life we had before modernity took hold. The use of the sea as a continuous background is thus absolutely vital to the message Gonzales-Rubio wants to deliver.

In one scene, Jorge and his father get dinner ready. They have prepared fish and tortillas. This interesting conversation follows:

Natan: It’s the barracuda, right?

Jorge: Yes, it is. There are the tortillas, please eat.

Natan: I don’t want lobster.

Jorge: There is no lobster. This is barracuda. Eat.

Grandfather: I bet you don’t have that in Italy.

Natan: They don’t go fishing there.

Jorge: They don’t fish, right, son?

Natan: The fish is already bought in Italy.

Alamar, Pedro Gonzales-Rubio
Alamar, Pedro Gonzales-Rubio

There are two points here. First, Natan is illiterate in sea food. He has obviously never learned what the difference between a lobster and a barracuda is. But then, how is he meant to learn this where he lives, and is it really of importance to him? Or to us, in that matter. I remember that I learned different fish species in primary school, but this knowledge is pretty much gone. Do I need it where I live? Not really. It would be an entirely different story, though, if I had to go out fishing for food on my own.

Second, the conversation contains the subtle attack on Western lifestyle/consumerism I mentioned before. People in Italy don’t fish. They go into a supermarket, and buy fish if they want some. Father and grandfather imply that their way of doing things is better.

In general, you get a sense that, while Natan appears hesitant here and there (which I take from his illiteracy in this new world), he seems to enjoy this new place. It’s probably adventurous for him. On the other hand, when he is back in Italy at the end of the film, he appears equally comfortable. I suppose this is the luxury of being little: you adapt pretty quickly to whatever surrounding you’re in.

This film is definitely worth working on in more detail at some other time.