Diving Through the Pain By Joan Millaret Valls

in 19th Toulouse Rencontres des Cinémas d'Amérique Latine

by Joan Millaret

Tides (La marea) is the surprising feature film directing debut by Argentinean Diego Martínez Vignatti, previously known as the cinematographer of Carlos Reygadas’ Japan (Japón) and Battle in Heaven (Batalla en el cielo). This film, about a woman’s pain and suffering after the loss of her husband and son in a car accident, gives off an overwhelming beauty. Visual aspects and the marvellous use of wide framing, the line between the sky and dunes of the remote beach where the protagonist seeks shelter, are especially remarkable, a no man’s land away from civilization in which the young woman’s isolation is clarified. Shelter will be finally found in a little fishermen’s hut shaken by winds and drowned by the waves, a natural setting where the woman will try to fill the immense void left by her beloved ones.

Loneliness, desert moors and inhospitable land. A survivor trying to grasp life but always tied to the edge of a cliff. Long trips back and forth for water, at a distant well, and hard and exhausting walks into a forest to get a bit of wood and heat her fragile refuge: this personal odyssey has an extreme hardness and a touching physical quality, as the afflicted character hardly eats. It seems like a desert crossing in order to purge her sins and soothe her pain, a hard penance based in physical work that will bring her to exhaustion and faint. This character, enclosed in her suffering, rejects the outside help offered by a neighbouring fisherman and completely avoids contacting her relatives. Only by finding a dying dog she will wake from her profound sadness as, after failing to finish him off, she will carry him home in order to try to save him. The dog becomes a reflection of herself, then: A hurt being sliding painfully to death, and her help and attentions toward him charts a slow path to the protagonist’s recovery.

Tides also maintains an intense and absorbing correspondence between the lead character’s imagination and reality, which is just masterfully developed. For example, in a single sequence, composed by two pans from left to right and vice versa, the absent son and father are just glimpsed before simply disappearing. Another astonishing moment comes from the fantasy sequence wherein the lead chases her son as she plays with him, and he suddenly vanishes from sight in the middle of the forest. The feature hardly uses dialogue, marvellously approaching a pure cinema experience, becoming a film constructed through images. The treatment of the soundtrack is a key aspect in this beautiful film that surely is far away from the poor and simple secondary role that it is often offered in regular cinema. A special mention to the sound of waves, the wind blowing through the dunes and the lush forest’s deafening roar, a sound symphony with abundant nuances full of meaning that, therefore, gives also to Tides an exciting sound aspect that promotes its essential at this forgotten part of the audiovisual language.

This film reaches back to the best and most intense of the European auteur cinema from Krzystof Kieslowski’s Three Colours: Blue – suspicious coincidences, same plot and a lead character called Blue (Azul), in both films – to Aleksandr Sokurov, for the visual and aural similarities between Tides and his recent work Mother And Son.