"Incident Light": The Long Awaited Return of Ariel Rotter

in 30th Mar del Plata International Film Festival

by Isaac León Frías

Among the 17 Argentinian films in three different categories in the 30th Mar del Plata Film Festival (International, Latin American and Argentinian) the FIPRESCI Jury unanimously chose Ariel Rotter’s third film Incident Light (La luz incidente).

Back in 2007 Ariel Rotter received the Silver Bear in the Berlin for his second featuer film The other (El otro) – a very peculiar drama starring Julio Chavez. We had to wait eight more years for his third film.

Incident Light, a sugestive title, tells the story of Luisa (Erica Rivas),  mourning the death of her husband and her brother in a car accident. Left with two small daughters, Luisa can not let go of the emptyness inside, until a random encounter with an older man named Ernesto (Marcelo Subiotto) turns her life around.

Ernesto’s steady and caring attitude towards her and her daughters  establishes a bond that is unresolved in the final scene, which shows all four together in a bedroom, the camera slowly pulls back trough the hallway ending in a slightly out of focus image. The uncertainty about the future is evident.

Incident Light’s black and white cinematography is a key element, creating an atmosphere that could not be achieved in color. This mood is supported by an accuracy in the acting, direction and design and framing of the closed spaces.

To top it all, the performance of Erica Rivas is a tremendous achievement, conveying the latent sorrow that prevails in most of the film. Using only a few expressive jestures, she shows the binding emotional state of her character.

It has been said, and rightfully so, that Incident Light is reminiscent of  Argentinian films of the 60s, particularly the films directed by David José Kohon. Yes, there is an intimate record and common content supported in both cases by the black and white cinematography, and the fact that Incident Light is set in the 60s.

However, Kohon and his contemporaries had a feeling of proximity with what they were telling. By contrast, the temporal distance between the story and the time of filming provides Rotter’s film a clear difference from the films that insipired him. Moreover, in Kohon’s films one could recognize a fragility in affections and situations, something that is totally lacking from Incident Light. Here there is no fragility whatsoever, neither in the characters nor in the movie style, more compact and solid than Kohon’s work which was struck by chance and unpredictability.

Edited by Yael Shuv