Wednesday, 11 August 2010


(Ciro Guerra; Colombia; 2009)

The classic theme of reluctant master and eager apprentice on an epic journey is given a lean unsentimental treatment by Guerra, who revels in framing their quest in the panoramic highlands and lowlands of northern Colombia. The plot centres around a master accordionist's need to return a supposedly accursed accordion to its original owner, with a slight intrigue coursing throughout the film as to whether the teenager who tenaciously follows him is his son. The sullen and serious demeanour of the man, his face almost permanently shaded by his hat, and the determination of the teenager almost set these two characters into the perfectly-moulded stereotype of the master/ apprentice model, but there is no easy development or resolution to their relationship. In fact, the man is never really a master, the boy is never really an apprentice. Instead, they are two individuals whose lives become more and more interwined through need – the man's need for endings and stasis, and the boy's need for beginnings and change. The intensity of their respective wishes – the man to quit the accordion and effectively end his life and the boy to learn from him and become a master accordionist – often pits them against each other, but the development of dependency between them is deftly teased out by Guerra. Add to this dynamic relationship a whiff of the diabolical that permeates the film, spectacular scenic shots of these figures set amongst grassy sierras or flat, sparse, arid landscapes, and a brilliant, insult-strewn accordion duel, and the result is a roundly satisfyingly film.

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