By Aldo Padilla
Despite not having a film in the official selection, the vast presence of Argentina in different sections deserves a text of its own for the eclecticism of the different proposals and its strong feminine presence. Argentina, in contrast to Brazil and Chile, has bet strongly towards fiction (except for Lola Arias’ film Theatre of War or Pino Solanas’ documentary A Journey to the Fumigated Towns).
Presented in Forum, Mónica Lairana’s The Bed is a proposal that explores the body and its dialogue with society, with oneself and, in this case, with a couple’s relation (a road which both Bixa Travesty and Touch me not have travelled). Also these bodies belong to older people, bodies that are not always portrayed by cinema in a natural way, tending more to decadence than nature.
In Lairana’s film these bodies become natural and spontaneous, sex lies here in all its dimensions: care, desire, not found energies, and goodbye, since the film portrays the end of a marriage of several years through three dimensions. We have a house that reorders itself, that discovers secrets, a couple which share its emotions as one, sharing the grievances, the unsaid, and the physical dimension; bodies that look for dialogue after knowing each other for a lifetime, sex as this comfort that emotions can’t achieve.
Without a doubt, the most identifiable name associated with Berlinale has been Dario Mascambroni, whose film Packing Heavy was presented in the Generation section. Keeping its focus in the father-son relations but skipping the age spectrum, Packing Heavy is the tale of a boy who moves around a conflictive neighborhood looking for some information on his late father. Also, the condemned man for the death of his father is about to leave jail exactly that day, although all this information is rather ambiguous, as is the father figure. It is this subtlety that allows the character and the spectator to doubt on the information collected.
Also in the Generation section, the Alessia Chiesa’s film The Endless Day is an exercise akin to a fairy tale when three kids between 5 to 9 years old spend their days playing in a huge house, with the promise of the return of absent parents. For a good part of the fil, the games appear to be part of a children’s film, but different warnings alert us that we’re watching a film where everything is apparent, and whose long contemplative shots are conflictive with its simple premise. The nature surrounding the house is another protagonist, since the great sound work tells that there’s a throughout detail of a natural environment characterized by birds, winds and leaves, trees that move harmonically.
In Panorama, Santiago Loza’s Malambo, the Good Man, was presented, a fiction film with a tendency towards documentary about a dancer coming out of retirement, marked by a defeat which is constantly manifested in form of nightmares. The return is compromised by a physical lesion in the back and a spiritual lesion that stops him from achieving plenitude during his training.
The film is based in its character’s dignity and the dance he executes. Loza’s films malambo (the local dance) with a great passion, showing how every small detail makes the interpretation makes him a winner. From the hands movement and the rotation of the body, to the gaze fixed in the spectator at the end of the dance, Loza achieves telling the complexity of a passion in a simple film. The simplicity of the film lies in its character’s take on life, which is simplified towards malambo. The integrity with which he faces the different problems of others is proof of how his passion can help seeing everything as a small challenge which can be overcome. One of the few internal problems of the protagonist lies on the envy he feels towards the last person he lost again, and the doubts this generates: Am I a good man?, the protagonist asks, and even if humbleness isn’t the same as goodness, it helps a lot in the way to plenitude.
The idea of repetition as a way of clarifying things is not always accurate. Sebastián Schjaer’s The Omission is precisely this continuous enigmatic viewing that constantly hides something that the spectator is missing. But also, the characters seem to be too abstracted as to understand that something strange that is unbalancing their life is present. Everything revolves around the protagonist, who moves from job to job in the south of Argentina with a daughter and a partner that are left in the background, all of them looking to raise enough money as part of an ambiguous plan to migrate to Canada.
The elusive and enigmatic in the film lies in the attitudes of the lead character, her adventure with a psychopath work buddy, her relation with her surroundings, defined by a great work in sound, which portrays perfectly the snow being crushed and regenerated at the same time. The little contradictions of a character that is unclear about her path, define a film that gives us a certain hint of something that is changing, despite the apparent immobility of the protagonist in her world, looking after her daughter or demanding payment for a previous work. The Omission Is the film we omitted, and its filmmaker reminds us what we missed.
Regarding the generalized consensus of a great Argentinian year, it’s only fair to talk about Martin Rodríguez Marylin, an Argentinian-Chilean co-production that faced the challenge of adapting a real story about the complex LGTB world in the rural world of Argentina. Despite portraying very crudely the retrograde panorama of these far-away zones, the film shows a treatment that shows no compassion with its suffering lead character, a shy boy who interprets in a magnificent way the behavior of someone lost in a completely hostile territory, both in his environment and its family. For a true adaptation, is difficult to watch the filmmaker looking for some kind of redemption for a character that falls in a spiral of pain, a thing that somehow could be alleviated in cinema, although the film doesn’t seem to look for that.