October 2013 Filed in: Films
Some of the magic of cinema is lost when you see it in layers, search out the parallels and center on what lurks behind the scenes. It is the type of intellectual distraction you want to save for after the movie is over, when the value of wonder is fully expended and the emotions that remained under the surface are safe to come out.
Allusions, by their very design, are not meant to be explicitly spelled out. They are like the painted cloth hung at the back of a stage, inconspicuously adding dimension and context. They work in the subconscious mind, while the action on the stage takes precedence. The unsaid is only potent when the more perceptible layers start to become transparent on their own, allowing light to pass through and reveal more of the core. You don't want to spend your whole experience of watching a play staring at the painted cloth and making sense of it. But, in La Sirga, you do just that. The whole story is laid out in the first few minutes. The rest of the movie focusses on the painted cloth!
The perceptible layer is the fragile wetlands of La Cocha, a glacial lagoon in the high Andes, surrounded by the mountains of the Knot of the Pastos. It’s a place of stunning beauty and the unspoiled charm of an isolated haven, trounced only by rain and wind.
In this lakeside village are indigenous people, working harmoniously to eke out a basic living breeding trout, extracting coal and growing veggies. There’s a broken-down Inn with rotting wooden floors and leaky ceilings, being prepped to open up for tourists, who may never come.
But, hidden behind this perceptible layer are the real untold stories of an armed conflict plaguing villages, the near extinction of a people facing economic dislocation, and their isolation, loneliness and lust that are barely repressible. The shadows of forces obliterating lives are ominously near. Fear is expressed through a quiet unease. Nothing need happen to transfer feelings, if danger is the only reality.