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Friday, January 23, 2015

Mariana Rondón: Postales de Leningrado (2007)

Postales de Leningrado, 2007
(Kino Pod Baranami)
no copyright infringement intended

A movie putting in parallel several representations of the same reality. Which one is faithful to the facts?

The background is the civil war that ravaged Venezuela in the 1960's. The two enemies were former allies: several years earlier the left wing forces had come to power in the country, and soon the radicals split and started a ruthless guerrilla. The moderate left that were now alone at power responded with political terror. From each side, moderates and radicals, the recourse to the method (the title of a novel by Alejo Carpentier coming in mind, El Recurso del método). Like a fatality. For the moderates, the recourse to political terror, for reasons of state (again Carpentier coming in mind, with the English title of his novel, Reasons of State). For the radicals, the recourse to revolutionary struggle, as a matter of principle (here I disagree maybe with Carpentier, I'd say that I'm much more skeptical when it comes to politics; on the other hand, who am I to disagree with Carpentier? Just speculating). Well, that's what happens sometimes between moderates and radicals.  In the 1960's Venezuela the two forces were the regime of Presidents Rómulo Betancourt and Raúl Leoni, against the partisans from FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional).

A detachment of guerrilleros  in the mountains, hunted by the military; one by one the partisans are caught and tortured to betray the other comrades. Meanwhile life and love follow the laws set by nature; a girl is procreated just in these dramatic moments. Girl of guerrilleros. Her birth happens to come when the country celebrates the Mother's Day. Girl and mother are photographed and the photo is published in the newspapers. The secret police compares the photo with its archive and traces the mother. The girl will be raised by the grandparents, like all other kids of guerrilleros. From time to time, very rarely, a postal card comes and makes sensation. It is announced in a codified language: card from Leningrad! and the kid knows that actually it comes from the parents. It's an illustrated postcard, the image of a beautiful city from afar. The kid starts dreaming, maybe one day I will go in the mountains to find them, my parents, and maybe if I keep going I will arrive in that big city, in Leningrad. As the kid has been told that his parents must hide, then this trick should be learned, how to become an invisible man. The reality of the civil war in all its brutality and ugliness, and the reality imagined by these kids, in all its purity and innocence, a universe of fairy-tales mixed with the postales de Leningrado. I was thinking while watching this film at another great movie, Guillermo del Torro's El laberinto del fauno.

This movie operates on multiple plans: the guerrilleros; their kids (the girl and her cousin Teo); the villagers (grandparents and other relatives and friends).  Which plan is more faithful to the facts? For the kids, the imagination creates a parallel universe with invisible men and enchanted adventures. For the villagers, the perception of the partisans is also slipping toward myth (se fueron a salvar al mundo y los seguimos esperando). For the guerrilleros themselves, their perceived self-image is also getting toward a parallel reality: a mysterious American TV cameraman seems to record them all the time, making us to question the authenticity of everything; is it real guerrilla or a movie in the making?

And over all these levels, the off-voice of the girl presenting all the stories about herself, about the other kids, villagers and partisans, with innocence and childish humor.

A wonderful movie about reality and representation, about the relativity of what we perceive about others and about ourselves.

A few links to movie reviews:

(Mariana Rondón)



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