Monday, 9 August 2010


(Patricio Guzman; France/ Germany/ Chile)

A stunning film. At it's simplest, this is a documentary about the coincidental search for the past in the Atacama desert in Chile, a place where astronomers can perform the clearest observations of the stars, and also where many women band together to search for the remains of relatives who were 'disappeared' during Pinochet's regime. But the engaging and unremitting beauty of this film is the complex interplay and inter-relationship of ideas that Guzman teases out, contrasting the popularity of the deep past of astronomy and archaeology with the habit of modern Chilean society to marginalise and ignore their own recent past. There is a lack of fear in this film – Guzman is not afraid to apply the macrocosms of the universe and the stratified layers of the earth to the microcosms of national history and identity in Chile. Interviews with astronomers, archaeologists, and the determined women who pain-staking dig through the Atacama desert for remains of the dead, all reveal a heightened and lucid ability to philosophise about each of their subjects in relation to the large canvas that Guzman wishes to paint. Breath-taking shots of the Atacama desert, images of galaxies swirling in the cosmos, observatories stationed like sentinels in the desert make this film an absolute visual feast, but Guzman wonderfully bring the macro and micro, the cosmic and the personal together in one sequence near the end, with close-up shots of marbles from his childhood, revealing a cosmos inside these tiny spheres. Remarkable.

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