By Mónica Delgado
It seems like filmmaker and visual artist Malena Szlam enters new territory in Altiplano. Now, the deserts and steppes of Atacama, her object of observation, look almost naked, even clearly tactile, graspable, barely transformed, while in her previous work, the sense of abstraction of those subjects of contemplation, (like the moon in Luna Almanac, his 2013 short film, or the fragments of persons and cities in Chronogram of Inexistent Time of 2008) produced a study on light, its matter and absences. Instead, in Altiplano, the day light encounters other way of being grasped, through the textures and a component which Szlam handles to perfection: the superposition and the flicker.
Malena Szlam builds in detail a route towards the heights, from the deserts and steppes, frames of horizontal coordinates towards a mountaintop, which is observed like a very present divinity but always contained, until the end of the film. These images, which build strata of mountains and deserts, and which go from horizontality to a different sense of the vertical, are placed in choreographies of film juxtapositions, of 35mm layers that allow this notion of terrain density. A desert, yes, almost total, but populated by different variations over the same frame, playing with the possibility of creating new lines in those surfaces that little by little take a different materiality compared to the conventional notions of landscape.
For Szlam, the sound acquires a fundamental role to create textures, not only to deepen the solitude of the wind, but also to make evident and palpable some watery or subterranean side of these dry lands which hide other kind of vitality. Thus, Szlam designs a new cartography through overlaps, where the sky can be turned in its reflection in stones and dry land. This is not an aesthetic film, despite the fixed shots that overlap with each other. The film achieves the progression of this journey from the desert to the higher lands, in the frontiers with Argentina, where this route towards the Andes shows and deconstructs the variety and diversity of the space, with the complicity of an absolutely physical and real soundtrack.
Wavelengths 1: Earth, wind and fire
Director, cinematography, editing: Malena Szlam
Producerss: Malena Szlam, Oona Mosna
Chile, Argentina, Canada