Sunday, 22 July 2012

nostalgia for the light (w&d patricio guzmán)

I was there on 911. When the Palace was  bombed and the President was killed. Or killed himself. Though no-one believes the official story because none of the official stories are credible. I did not fight in the trenches, because no-one did. I was not rounded up by the young men whose anger masked their confusion. I was not taken to the football stadium so I did not see Jara have his hands chopped off or the students shot or endure that strange time standing on the terraces as though waiting for the football match to start, knowing that when it started it only meant the end. Neither did I succeed in mythologizing my experiences when I fled, first to Mexico, then to Europe, then to the Stratosphere.

But I was there, one way or another. Or, rather, I have been there. I have even walked the Atacama desert, seen the stars like nowhere on earth, hunted for traces of lost civilisations as well as traces of the civilisation we have lost.

Because of this, Guzmán’s film, haunting though it is, did not tell me things I did not know. It is not a beautiful film and neither should it be. Neither is it a meditational film, as some say. It is an angry film, and that is at it should be. It has a quiet, hidden anger, with the energy of an exploding star, because Guzmán was on a star that exploded forty years ago and knows how it feels. Because anger is the offspring of pain which is the offspring of events which are what Guzmán lived through and felt and if you have seen his films then you too have lived through and felt these events and all that they then brought forth. Which is why I know I was there. Even if I wasn’t. Which is why his film tells me nothing new. Even though I am glad to have learnt nothing new.

Guzmán points his own telescope into the past. He points it at the desert floor. The light which hits the screen whilst we watch is light which was busy being born forty years ago, finally reaching our eyes.

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