The origin of the first word is not clear. Perhaps it was the imitation of the cry of a beast or the sound emitted from one’s own pain or pleasure. That or simply keeping the beat collectively. There are more hypotheses, almost all of them raised by the nineteenth-century linguist Max Muller to which we should now add the one that Alvaro Gurrea accidentally raises in Old Soul the film presented in the Forum section of the Berlin Festival online. He says that the first time he considered filming on the island of Java where his film takes place, the only way to communicate with the Indonesians who ended up being his actors was through the camera. Then he learned their language, but the first instinct, to speak without an interpreter other than the impressed image remained there. And forever.
Five years ago I traveled to Java with my wife for work reasons. I was, like so many others, fascinated by the sulfur mines of the Kawah Ijen volcano and I thought about making a film. Then, at just 27 years old, I was not a filmmaker Gurrea comments carefully for not raising the anecdote to the headline category. Missed target. Then he came back, took film classes at Pompeu Fabra University, and came back again. And another. And another. The fascination of the beginning would eventually turn into an obsession and this, of course, into a movie.
It is, to situate ourselves, a crystalline cinema whose footsteps can be heard when it learns to walk. Through an acquaintance, the now director settled in a small town near the yellow hell that is the volcano, and there he lived for seasons ranging from 15 days to a lifetime. At first, I had no other way of communicating with them with those who were going to be my actors, then with directions to shoot through the lens he says. The language was the cinema itself and what was recorded was not so much the captured images as the very exercise of dialogue in cinema, first with rhythmic and shared babbling, and, later, with universal calligraphy close to the deepest of myths. It is cinema from before the invention of cinema. Later I learned Indonesian, but in the film, they speak using. The instructions of the script were translated by one of the actors in the film who speaks and writes English in addition to using, he continues at the same time as precise in the description of the labyrinth linguistic as evidently cryptic.
The film tells the story of Yono a sulfur miner, who is one day abandoned by his wife Oliv. Later, another day, his mother falls ill. Yono’s fight is to get the first one back and the second one heals. And do it in any way. Be it through the help of sorcerers to order the souls of the world in their favor; either through the intervention of God himself and Islam that informs him; whether through the lucrative (or not) business of cryptocurrencies. Everything is mixed in a universe in which consumer unreason and myths share the first impulse of things and causes. Of all of them. That is a world in which there is no separation. Everything regulated religion animism, and capitalism is part of the same belief system. The magic is in reality explains the director to attest to what could be considered the instruction manual.
Old soul advances on the screen are so aware of the irony of its characters that they know themselves as actors as of the time without time of a sacred space. Think of Apichatpong Weerasethakul. And all this without renouncing the ocher fascination of an entire mountain that smokes and vomits darkness. The underworld is a warning and threat. The Kawa Ijen volcano appears, in order, a) as the place where spirits live; b) as a temple of prayer and, finally, c) as a theme park where tourists, selfies, and unforgettable experiences swarm. All three stadiums in one. The three moments transformed into cinema that learns to be precisely cinema. Cinema that talks cinema.
The official section hid one of its main attractions well in plain sight on Wednesday. Céline Sciamma, the director who was surprised at the last Cannes with ‘Portrait of a woman on fire’, presented her next work. The way to do it, however, was misleading. Instead of the grand production that every director is entitled to after the closest thing to success, ‘Petite Maman’ is hardly a vocationally minimal 70-minute film from any point of view. Filmed in full confinement, everything revolves around a girl who, in reality, is two. At his side, his mother, his father, and his grandmother have had just died. There’s no more.
What is seen instead, hence the confusion, is a major work. Immense in its precision. The unlikely meeting of a daughter with whom he was his mother when she was the same age is told. It is told, therefore, and to summarize a lot, the encounter of a girl with herself who is both daughter and mother of herself. Yes, it is labyrinth and time travel. But it is also a journey free from the punishment of time. Shot with a delicacy that scares for its clarity and depth The director strives to portray that unique moment in which the most elementary things make sense a cabin in the forest, the shadow of a panther on the wall at night, the smell that the forgotten objects of the dead give off, a race under the rain. And in the background, or not so much death as a presence more full than sad, harsher than tragic. Descomunal. If this is not a Golden Bear let another pandemic come and see it.