Nostalgia for the Light
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For his new film master director Patricio Guzmán, famed for his political documentaries (THE BATTLE OF CHILE, SALVADOR ALLENDE), travels 10,000 feet above sea level to the driest place on earth, the Atacama Desert, where atop the mountains astronomers from all over the world gather to observe the stars. The sky is so translucent that it allows them to see right to the boundaries of the universe. The Atacama is also a place where the harsh heat of the sun keeps human remains intact: those of Pre-Columbian mummies; 19th century explorers and miners; and the remains of political prisoners, disappeared by the Chilean army after the military coup of September, 1973. So while astronomers examine the most distant and oldest galaxies, at the foot of the mountains, women, surviving relatives of the disappeared whose bodies were dumped here, search, even after twenty-five years, for the remains of their loved ones, to reclaim their families histories. Melding the celestial quest of the astronomers and the earthly one of the women, NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT is a gorgeous, moving, and deeply personal odyssey.
Stunningly beautiful. I don't know how you can put more into a film, or make one that's more deeply moving. --Stuart Klawans, The Nation
Deeply Affecting! Critics Pick. --New York Magazine
The film is gorgeous, purposefully slow, almost a meditation. Guzmán tells us life in the Atacama Desert is an eternal book of memories. And he lingers on every page, capturing shots of constellations with the care of a master photographer. Imagine Ansel Adams, working in colour, let loose in the Milky Way. --Stephen Cole, The Globe and Mail
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Add to this the thematic explorations of the film -- time, grief, mystery, memory, human (and humane) frailty, the transience of all things, the genocide of political protestors during Pinochet's brutal tenure, and the search for meaning in an otherwise indifferent setting -- and you have a film that moved me beyond words. I have reviewed only a few products or books for Amazon, and generally don't place much stock in overly enthusiastic ramblings such as this one. Somehow, though, I felt compelled to comment on this film, which shed a great deal of light on a great many subjects without once becoming heavy-handed or digressive.
As the film points out, we are such stuff as the universe is made of. Stars contain the same elements as the bones of those buried in mass graves in the Atacama. The same light that ennobles the best of our intentions (an understanding of who we are as human beings) also reveals cruelty, torture, and murder on a scale that is almost impossible to understand.
And yet, all is tied together through this terrific work of filmmaking. Seeing it was, truly, a life changing experience. The final scenes are so powerful, both in terms of the human spirit and its capacity for great good in the face of true evil, that words simply can not describe the majesty they convey. See this film: you'll be a better person for having done so.
Worth watching many times. Starts a little slow but it only gets better as the story continues.