Saturday, August 21, 2010

Altitude Sickness

Altiplano (2009) - Brosens/Woodworth
Altiplano opens with the start of the Virgin Mary procession in the town of Turubamba up in the Andes. The statue shatters right outside the church because children get over-excited about silvery liquid in the potholes on the ground. The whole sequence is breathtakingly gorgeous. Then it cuts to a battle field of Iraq, where a Iranian-born, Belgian photojournalist Grace (Jasmin Tabatabai) is forced to take a picture of the death of her guide, Omar. Soon after, she denounces her profession and falls into a deep depression racked with guilt while her husband, a cataract surgeon Max (Dardennes' regular Olivier Gormet) heads for the Andes for the volunteer work.

People in Turubamba get sick from the mercury poisoning and a headstrong girl Saturnina (Magali Solier of Madeinusa) loses her fiancé to the illness. Her blind rage becomes the focal point for the riots against ever present mining companies digging for gold.

Set in otherworldly Andes backdrop, Altiplano is bravura filmmaking at its best- colors, music, camera movements and unforgettable images mixed in with myth and spirituality conjuring up emotions like no other. The filmmakers does take artistic freedom to bring home the message. But it doesn't feel cheap. Their tragic lyricism doesn't feel made-up. And the camera adores Solier, understandably so- she is the definition of exotic beauty. Her defiant martyr carries this otherwise too on-the-nose film. By the end, this stunningly presented tale of reconciliation and fraternity really cuts deep.


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