Nostalgia for the Light (2010)

28 Oct

Review of Nostalgia for the Light

Chili, a country which is perfectly located for watching the stars. Its vast desert provides an area which isn’t polluted by the city lights. For astronomers it is the place to watch the stars. Their light has sometimes travelled billions of years before being caught into a telescope and someone’s eye. Astronomers, just like archeologists, look into the past trying to answer many questions. One of them states that actually we all live in the past. Everything our eyes sees first needs to travel some distance. Even if it’s just a millionth of a second, we are seeing something which isn’t the present. The history of the galaxy can be seen with telescopes and through memories the past of a country can be remembered, which in the case of Chili is a chilling one.

Director Patricio Guzmán effortlessly weaves astronomy and Chili’s past during dictatorship together. He shows the similarities between the two and the questions historians and those who have lost someone to the concentration camps in Chili compare to those watching the stars. Mothers search the desert in the hope to find the bones of their children or other loved one. The difference with the astronomer is that they won’t be able to sleep without worries each night. His narration sometimes reminded me of Werner Herzog, making connections others might not.

Even though I had heard about dictator Pinochet I never knew much more about the country he ruled and which horrible things took place. By mixing beautiful imagery of the stars with stories of astronomers, historians, survivors of the concentration camps and those who lost the one they loved, this documentary manages to paint a very strong picture of a dark past a big part of the country wants to forget about. It shows that as long as there are unanswered questions the quest for answers will continue.

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