Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nostalgia for the Light: worth all the money I’ve wasted on a largely unused Netflix subscription.



I thought when I retired I would actually use my netflix subscription instead of wasting money every month on a video rental service I never used. Well, it hasn’t quite worked out that way. A netflix film can still be around the house for weeks before I get around to it and the little Roku box I bought for streaming video has been used exactly once. Most nights I would just rather read.

But there are some things film can do that a book cannot and thanks to Netflix I have seen some amazing films from around the world. A visually breathtaking and deeply moving film I stumbled on last week was Patricio Guzman’s Nostalgia for the Light. I’ve watched all of Guzman’s documentary films about Chile. I was inChile in 1972, a year before the brutal coup which destroyed Salvador Allende’s non-violent democratic revolution. Chile has had a hold on my imagination ever since— although my return trip in 2006 was something of a disappointment.

Guzman is still haunted by the horrors of Pinochet’s dictatorship. Set in the Atacama Desert where the dry air creates ideal conditions for astronomers, the film works on 2 tracks —the astronomers who describe themselves as archaeologists searching for the past in distant galaxies and the mothers of Pinochet’s victims also searching for the past in the Atacama, site of one of Pinochet’s concentration camps. The women wander the desert with shovels searching for the remains of their children. One says she wishes the gigantic telescopes looming in the desert landscape could also look deep into the earth and find her son.

The two strands merge in a young woman whose parents were killed by Pinochet and who now studies astronomy. She finds consolation in the stars; although her sorrow is not diminished, there is a measure of peace in seeing her personal tragedy in a larger perspective.

The shots of distance galaxies were astonishing and for the first time in my life, I thought maybe I would like one of those flat screen TV’s. (Rick and I are the only people we know who have yet to succumb to the lure of a giant flat screen TV.) Nostalgia for the Light was worth all the money I’ve wasted on a largely unused Netflix subscription.

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