pourquoi? parce que


leave a comment »

Alamar still‘To The Sea’ – Alamar. An extraordinarily beautiful film. A slice-of-life drama – fictive yet with quite remarkable verisimilitude – it’s the most exotic, aesthetic and fragile life that’s sectioned. Back-story is told in pre-credit photographs. A beautiful child with his Hispanic father. Each is equally arresting, gorgeous brown, one dashing, the other miniscule. White Italian mother, whose voiceover details their romance, their separation, her return to Rome with child.

After a long, tiresome journey with little Natan – boats, trains – we discover his father Jorge’s home. He lives by a tiny, remote island to the east of Yucatan, in a wooden house on stilts. They live literally on the water. Father and son work together. Jorge teaches his boy about everything, showing him by example. Soft and hard lessons in painting, joinery, fishing, by line or by pole, diving, the sea, the sea. Always so warm, they need only wear trunks.

These are the people of Banco Chincorro, the world’s second largest coral barrier reef. Its wildlife discloses itself at once as living being and resource. Natan discovers the means of feeding oneself. The food – grilled snapper, stewed barracuda, spiny lobster tails. Caught on hand-pulled lines, with the spear gun, or captured in their coral caves.

Together they work, sing songs, dance passionately, sleep arms round one another. Natan’s imagination is fed by the ever present threat of crocodiles, an over-confident African Ibis (which they nearly domesticate, feeding her household insects). It is like an interpretation of Peter Pan and one lost boy, set entirely in Terrence Malick’s environmental cutaways.

Alamar is preoccupied with how lives are lived immanently to nature. These beautiful brown bodies live on the sea. Many shots focus on their equipment, whether hunting gear, woodworking tools, or simply feet, grappling intuitively with steep inclines and wooden beams. Jorge is forever coping, in flow. His son is allowed to take risks, face danger, learn by involvement and excitement.

A celebration of fatherhood, with its joys and responsibilities. The actors Jorge and Natan really are father and son, as is so obvious from the film. That bond brings to life this fiction. Yet the fictive Jorge and Roberta cannot compromise, and provide a pair of loving parents to Natan. They must say good bye to one another. This is a great sadness of fatherhood.

A lament for feeling of ending, for father and son – particularly, in childhood. Life on the sea, from the perspective of a five year old boy, is entirely seductive. Even to us, it appears absolutely exquisite. Natan can just about bear to leave, not knowing what awaits him in Rome. “It doesn’t matter where you are. I’ll be taking care of you.”

What is ‘slow cinema’? What makes a film slow is nothing happening. In Alamar, every happening is an event, a little miracle. The acuity with which their exotic domesticity is photographed – detailed, privileged – and focusing on the most mundane but most fundamental subjects – fatherhood, childhood, endings – results in a film that is more captivating than most big narratives. Anything but slow.

Natan draws a tiny picture of his family in Chincorro, and sets it adrift in a gallon jug. Maybe it will arrive in Mexico. Maybe Italy. In the drawing he includes the cameraman, an suggestion that this could be real, that they have indeed lived together in that house all this time. A bout de souffle.


Alamar, dir./wri. Pedro González-Rubio, star. Jorge Machado, Natan Machado Palombini Nestór Marín, Roberta Palombini, Mexico, 2009


Written by James P. Campbell

21/06/2010 at 16:10

Posted in Reviews

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: