Monday, January 23, 2012

Looking at the Past

Nostalgia for the Light (2010) - Guzmán
Chilé's Atacama desert is the driest place on earth. It is also the setting for this poignant documentary that successfully blends astronomy with ugly Chiléan history under Pinochet.

The desert's dry climate has been attracting sky gazing scientists from all around the world since the early 50s. But it also had been used as a site of mass graves for hundreds of 'the disappeared' under the Pinochet regime. Patricio Guzmán ponders the nature of time through interviews with astronomers and the old women who are combing the vast, arid desert ground for the remains of their loved ones.

As one astronomer points out, when we are looking at the stars, we are looking at the past since the light reflected on the stars takes time to meet our eyes. Comparing astronomy to archeology and paleontology, Nostalgia for the Light brings down the sky to human level much more elegantly and poetically than recent films that invoked celestial musings (Tree of Life, Melancholia, Another Earth, Take Shelter etc). I could've done without constant narrations. The visuals speak for themselves most of the time.

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