True Believers By Diego Brodersen
in 21st Mar Del Plata International Film Festival
Two visual landscapes of unending beauty, two hallucinatory sensorial worlds. That’s the gift two films from the Mar del Plata International Film Festival’s main competition offered to spectators open to new experiences. And both were made by filmmakers with a vast experience in the field of visual poetry. In a festival where the majority of films main concern seems to be cantered in the spoken word, and show a strong reliance in televisual and theatrical tactics, these old masters returned to show us that cinema is above all things, and obvious as it may sound, the art of images in motion. They both surely believe in this; they’re true believers of the cinematographic miracle.
Werner Herzog, who in the last decade seemed to fade away, his madness and strength gone, a remembrance of cinephiles and old timers, has come back with a vengeance in the era of computed generated imaginary. The Wild Blue Yonder has the most striking and wildly imaginative use of found footage one can remember, its images of astronauts inside a spacecraft orbiting around the Earth evidencing that there’s nothing like the real world when you’re trying to conjure up surprise and excitement. The director of such oddly extreme works such us Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo, two films that also dive into the unreal quality of reality, re-uses and give new meaning to documentary footage of different origins: pilots trying to maintain themselves in the air back in the 20’s, stills of the Sun and its ever changing surface, amazing and beautifully lit underwater scenes shot by divers under the polar ice, spacemen floating inside a NASA made tin can. Then the actor Brad Dourif appears in front of the camera, telling the impossibly funny story of the Andromedia inhabitants and how they came to Earth some thousands of years ago. The Wild Blue Yonder might be the cheapest science fiction film ever made, but at the same time demonstrates that Herzog is not dead: he’s in top form and ready to rock.
On the other side of the budgetary spectrum, Terrence Malick’s latest opus, The New World, is based in the Pocahontas legend, but its exquisite visual wonders are far away from the Disney version. Using the steady-cam like no one else these days, transforming beautiful American locations into the Virginian landscape from the early XVIII century, believing that cinema is not only about telling a story but also about how to tell it, Malick gave birth to another of his lyrical approaches to classical filmmaking. There’s nothing apparently extraordinary in the story of a Native American and an English sailor whose love bond is a clear metaphor about what happens when two cultures meet and eventually crash. What sets the film apart from the usual historical romance and melodrama is its constant sense of wonderment for what the characters, and also what we, see. Like in The Thin Red Line and his other two films, the director masterfully uses his unique approach to mise-en-scène to animate a story about the human nature that develops deep inside the bigger canvas of Nature, and that also reflects on the links between them and its inevitable clash.
Perhaps the best way to let the beauty and knowledge of these two films fully penetrate you as the light come from the screen is to see them with the mind, the eyes and the heart wide open. They’re both made to be enjoyed, they can both be sensed deeply, even unconsciously, and you can reflect on them on different levels during and after the screening. It’s as good as a film can be, isn’t it?