Et voila, I am back on the South American continent, in Argentina to be exact. Lisandro Alonso is for me a special slow-film director. Not only because he is the only director who could really make me sleep within the course of a film (and his films aren’t very long). Although, watching his films and feeling tired is not necessarily a bad thing. It is merely a comment on the combination of camera movement, use of nature sounds, and the slowness of life in the middle of nowhere.
Los Muertos (2004) was Alonso’s second feature film after La Libertad (2001). In the film, we follow Vargas, an ex-prisoner, on a journey to find his daughter. The journey takes him through beautiful landscapes, and reminded me of the cinema of Bela Tarr. The two directors are utterly different from one another, true. But it is also true that both put emphasis on the aspect of walking. In general, walking or travelling are major themes in Slow Cinema.
In Los Muertos, Vargas is walking, but also going by boat for quite a substantial amount of time in the film. He’s floating on a river, and we get a sense of freedom somehow. It is a different way of walking / travelling from the ones we see in Tarr’s films. I get the feeling that the characters in Tarr are always walking against some obstacle. It reminds me of the characters in Satantango (1994), who walk in brisk wind. Or the characters in The Turin Horse (2011). Again, they walk against brisk winds. However, Alonso puts his characters into a more peaceful environment, which allows the viewer to be at peace as well. To just float one a boat with Vargas.
Los Muertos also reminds me of the beautiful Bal by Semih Kaplanoglu. Los Muertos is by all means a sound film. There is little said, or even done for that matter. But the sound of nature, of the water, the trees in the jungle, Vargas’ walk on a dusty road – they all make the film into what it is. It is also the sounds that lull you into a deep sleep if you don’t watch yourself.
The combination of natural sounds and peaceful walking through the jungle, equally says something else about the type of slow film Los Muertos is. For me, it is clearly a landscape film. Vargas is by far not the only character, but the surroundings, the environment he lives in and travels through, are equally important to the “feel” of the film. As is so often the case in Slow Cinema.