MoneyMaker Movie of the Week: Nostalgia for the Light
For three decades now cinema has supposedly been staring into the abyss of its own fate. First came the ‘cinema-killer’, VHS, which was followed by the silver-screen-assassin, DVD. Then came the movies-murderer, BluRay, and then most recently vast swathes of internet pirates cutting their swarthy way across big studios’ profit margins. And with every new threat comes those naysayers who are already composing cinema’s obituary.
However, those thinking the film industry is set to implode against the threat from home-viewers forget one important thing – whether it’s a 60 inch plasma or a laptop screen, home viewing can never compete with the full cinema experience, as when it’s at its best, the artform of cinema is uniquely placed to bring all of its composite elements together in one perfect storm (although, ironically, cinema is very much not at its best during George Clooney and co’s ‘The Perfect Storm’).
When done properly, the potent blend of sound, moving image and atmosphere can trigger parts of ourselves that remain hidden away otherwise, and no fudging the issue by absorbing the material in anything less than the full cinema experience can match it. Nostalgia for the Light is that kind of film experience – not so much a documentary about Chile’s unsavoury Pinochet regime, but more an overwhelming meditation on humanity, washing over an audience’s heads like a tidal wave of thought-provoking stimuli.
The documentary is directed by Chilean filmmaker and journalist Patricio Guzman, who has devoted his movie-making life to his beloved home country, and who in NFTL probes the infamous dictator’s murderous era, and its impact upon the nation’s people. He does this by using a location that is a character in its own right – the only brown spot visible on Earth from space, the Atacama Desert. It’s a place with no humidity, and a dry barrenness that brings out the truth in people. It’s also the place where General Pinochet would have his political opponents buried, and thousands of bodies still remain locked away in secret in their shallow tomb. Here we meet individuals who had loved ones snatched away from them in the Seventies and Eighties, and who cannot get on with their lives until they find resolution – these heartbreaking case studies are lives lost in the past, with their future removed from them by the dictator they despise.
Meanwhile, Guzman also features the scientists who also prowl the desert, using the stillness to hunt for the big answers of life. The astronomers in the desert look up, searching for the origins of life, and fascinated with the stars they see imploding millions of years in the past, that we are only just seeing today. At the same time, the archeologists look down, hunting for the bones and remnants of creatures and civilisations long gone, to discover where we have come from.
The film brings these elements together in the most beautiful way, with a meandering flow giving plenty of space for the cast of interviewees to share their thoughts on life, but also the viewer to re-evaluate all they thought before. The picture looks truly astonishing, and the soundtrack ekes out every last drop of genuine emotion and wonder from the concepts discussed on screen, creating an immersion unlike many you will experience at your local multiplex, and certainly one that won’t be replicated from your sofa.
A sensational movie-going experience that will stay with you for a long time.