"The Window": The Eye of the Beholder By Leopoldo Muñoz

in 53rd Valladolid International Film Festival

by Leopoldo Muñoz

One of the most recurrent metaphors to describe the cinematic phenomenon is to compare the projected screen with a mirror of society. Although, on many occasions, the big screen actually simulates a window offering a panoramic view stimulated by imagination. Precisely, The Window is the title of the feature film by the Argentinean filmmaker Carlos Sorín — known internationally for El perro (Bombón: El Perro, 2004) — that won the FIPRESCI award in the last 53rd edition of the Festival de Cine de Valladolid (Seminci). Without any doubts, the delicacy of its mise-en-scène and narration made this feature film one of the pinnacles of the Spanish festival, emerging as a synthetic and evocative exhibition of the powers of cinematic language.

The buzzing of a bee hitting the closed window in the room of the old and ailing Antonio — an exceptional Antonio Larrea — reveals not only the sense of oppression the main character undergoes in his last days of life but also sets off the implications conveyed by the film’s title. This window constitutes the crevice between the desolation of his present — abandoned by his family and a survivor of situations that now exist only in his memory, as occurs in the dream at the beginning of the film — and the hope of freedom that the open air involves. Once the annoying buzz compels him to open the large window in the country house and sees through it into the family state — connoting past and better times of his existence — Antonio chooses to escape his confinement to enjoy the freedom that nature inspires.

This effort pays off for the character as he regains meaning and reason to live. With a slow but firm pace and carrying the saline bag that anchors him to an abeyant mortality, he sneaks away from the manor without the servants noticing his escape. Sorín projects these instants calmly and serenely, somewhat evoking Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978), transporting the viewer into the same self-absorption enjoyed by the old man which is usually provoked by the contemplation of beauty in a pure state. These readings are not arbitrary: the mise-en-scène denotes this pleasure of Antonio, like the one he experiences while urinating by himself immersed in the nature of his homeland, an act which brings back to him the emotion to feel like a man. Stunning images with a skillful register, like those of a neighbor telling Antonio about a rabbit he hunted when strong winds raised the dust into the air accompanied by the roar of the wind whooshing against the meadow. Calmness evoking the best years of Antonio but also an impending end to his days, waiting for the arrival of his son. A prodigal son — just like Antonio’s doctor remarks, since the offspring abandoned the fatherly home looking to succeed as a pianist abroad, completely unaware of his father’s life and surroundings, so much that he ignores the extent of the family estate.

In spite of portraying a stranger to the audience, when the son arrives at the manor with a woman — whether his girlfriend, agent or colleague, her relationship with the son is never made explicit, beside her impatience in connecting a mobile phone — there’s a lot for the audience to speculate about the pianist. The tin soldiers found by the tuner inside the piano suggest that, most likely, the heir of Antonio placed them during his childhood with the intention to undermine his musical education. This conjecture is confirmed at the epilogue of the film when we discern the son gathering up the toys and put them away in the pocket of his jacket. This is an idea that not only speaks of the former longings of the offspring — currently a grown man — to escape the family state but also of the current insurmountable distance between father and son, and consequently, of the nostalgia overwhelming both of them. This is a key to the film — not a personal conclusion, but the result of a conversation with other attendants to Seminci —, which derives into an ending open more to questions than answers. It is after this meaningful scene — similar to the one in The Searchers (1956) when Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) returns back home and a woman of his family touches the dusty hems of his clothing — when the son, the sun setting in the field, stops in front of the large window watching all what he turned down. It is the loss of a family story that can never be retrieved, slowly fading away together with the life of his progenitor. At last, by locating himself in the same standpoint of Antonio — facing the framed window, just as it happens between the spectators and the screen, and the gaze of the filmmaker through the camera — he discovers a meaning of existence until now unbeknownst to him.