"Parque Vía": A Man Alone By Nicole Hess

in 60th Locarno International Film Festival

by Nicole Hess

The days of Beto’s life are all the same. Every morning, the alarm rings at the same time; he takes a shower, eats his breakfast and gets to work. He sweeps the stairs, cleans the windows, cuts the lawn and irons his white suits. The routine of it doesn’t seem to bother the old man — indeed, quite the contrary: The Indio is the last man staying in this empty villa in the center of Mexico City, which shall be sold soon. He’s paid to maintain the house and the grounds, which belong to a rich family of the white upper class, and he hopes very strongly that nobody will show interest in the building. Where else could he, the outsider, go?

In Parque Vía, the Spanish-born director Enrique Rivero follows this ordinary man — who set himself up in the empty rooms after the death of his wife with just a bed, an armchair and a television — with his camera. In long, static shots, which cinematographer Arnau Valls Colomer mostly shoots as large frames, he captures the everyday life of his protagonist. Repeated scenes, in which we watch Beto — played by the non-professional Nolberto Coria — standing on a ladder, or running the lawn mower, or using an electric iron, reflect the routine of his life as in a mirror. But there’s more to it than that. They also let us feel the ambivalent character of his setting. The walls of his beloved “home” not only protect Beto from a violent and strange world outside, with which he’s in contact only through the images on his television. The walls also contain his growing loneliness.

Sometimes, Beto’s calm and secluded life is interrupted. From time to time, potential buyers destroy his peace. Regularly Lupe, a prostitute, comes to see him; he always welcomes her in the same laconic way. (“Hello. You’re beautiful.”) Then his landlady, a tall and rigid elderly woman with a strong moral sensibility, inspects his maintenance work. One day, she takes her employee to the market where he breaks out in panic; he can’t stand the crowd and all the synaesthetic impressions of the place — the smells, the colors. It’s the outburst of an indigenous individual who fears he’ll find no other work or space of his own in the still-fractured society of modern Mexico.

The implicit critique which arises in this powerful scene is only one example of the discreet and unpretentious way in which this dramatically and aesthetically convincing film treats its subject. This impressive debut takes its strength on the one hand from its realistic based story: Nolberto Coria is, in his real life, a housekeeper from the extended family of the filmmaker. On the other hand, the formal minimalism allows the audience to concentrate their attention on the protagonist’s fate: In the end, when the house is sold, he will take a surprisingly radical step.

With Parque Vía, Rivero has made a touching as well as stylistically independent movie that fits perfectly into the Mexican New Wave, alongside the films of Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu and Carlos Reygadas.