Chronicle of a Rare Investigation
The sudden development and subsequent explosion of the new Argentine cinema no longer astonishes anyone. Over the past five years now, a steady flow of films has been arriving from Buenos Aires. These are films that arouse extremely positive reactions by their wholly new way of looking at cinema. And indeed the new generations intend to make a clean break with the past, not in the form of polemics or proclamations, but rather in creative ways so utterly renewed in their every aspect as to leave us speechless. The fact that the financial and production mechanisms of this new Argentine wave are peripheral and marginal is only a confirmation. Indeed, this is true to such a degree that they have not even been affected by the present national crisis, though notable. And here, in this cross between the absence of roots and bursting imagination, is where the key to the unexpected success (and not rebirth) might be found. What most strongly characterizes the new actors, above all the debutants, is subtraction. There is no trace of literature, even less of folkloristic elements, no old-time actors, no Baroque or labyrinthine structure, an absence of metaphor. Everything is right there before us, visible, material. Speech has the immediacy of everyday language, with the actors often debutants. The city of Buenos Aires no longer plays a dominant role even when it stays in the foreground. Even the exercise of memory is limited to a very recent past, as if it wanted to separate itself from that most tragic one, just slightly more distant, which is such a heavy burden.
“Ana y los otros” completely respects this series of parameters common to the community of the young Argentine directors. The film by Celina Murgia, in fact, draws its force precisely from her determination to amplify this undeclared ‘decalogue’. We are shown Parana’, the capital of the state of Entre Rios and, the heroine, a woman barely twenty – therefore about the same age as Murgia herself. The woman goes back to this provincial town from Buenos Aires where she lives to see to the sale of the family house. Ana is a female figure paradigmatically ‘in search’ of something that seems to be simultaneously more, yet also less, than her existential reading. Though deep in her heart she longs to see an old boyfriend again with whom she has lost touch, as she revisits places and people, all in just a few days, her movements are aimless and completely without purpose. Shops that have vanished forever, a city that has expanded too fast for its own good, the port now renovated, couples that have been formed or separated, babies born – all fragments of a kaleidoscope constantly superimposing to create motifs that are forever unstable. Ana does not wander through the city, she crosses it, just as she seems to cross with lightning intuitions the time she spends with old friends at a high school reunion. Quiet hours at the beach rarely even broken by a brief exchange of words, conversations with passers-by or with a close girlfriend, above all the unexpected blossoming of a friendship with a teenage boy: the story, though still in the form of an investigation, finds its own rhythm far from the nervous or pressing pace we might expect. It would seem that Celina Murgia has been inspired by the cinema of Kiarostami. It is not by chance that Ana’s trip changes purpose as it goes, just like so many of the characters of the Iranian director do.
Yet the most important aspect of the film, which makes it anomalous compared to other Argentine films with a similar subject, is that “Ana y los otros” is a full-fledged comedy. The name that immediately comes to mind is Rohmer (it was the Rohmerian model that prevailed in “Sabado”, for which Murgia was assistant director). Yet though the sarcasm, irony and quick wit of some of the lines confirm this, her film admittedly takes an independent route. Then, the language which sustains it, in addition to being original, is surprisingly consistent with the material chosen. Lightness here is not only subtraction, reduction to the essential, the legacy of the joyful side. It is the fruit of a great narrative and descriptive ability which enables the director to stay suspended between mystery and open confession. Unassumingly matter-of-fact, “Ana y los otros” reveals an evasive and fleeting reality, though no less concrete, that can be summed up in ‘the other than oneself’. And the heroine is aware she must constantly compare herself to this. Thus it is not even important how, or if, the moment will come when she will see her old boyfriend again, something that is neither desired nor hoped for, but only felt necessary.
Effortlessly the viewer slides into the folds of the story, makes it his or her own, and surrenders to it. The viewer admires how the testimony of female independence is finally reflected in narrative and expressive maturity. A debut film with surprising qualities and an astonishing outcome.
© FIPRESCI 2003