Nostalgia for the Light
Directed by Patricio Guzmán
Cornerhouse, 15 July 2012
It is at once haunting and thought-provoking, a very fine documentary indeed.
We are confronted with the human animal in all its manifold contradiction: its angelic highs and diabolical lows, its quest for knowledge and its capacity for evil.
Telescopes range across the heavens, gathering information about the origins of the universe, the beginnings of life. The Atacama Desert, where these telescopes are based, is itself an invaluable archaeological record containing clues to our distant past, right back to prehistoric times. More recently, political prisoners, those tortured and executed, and other victims of Pinochet’s regime also lay there; it was apparently a favourite dumping ground, for there are many such mass burial sites. Some brave women scour the desert each day looking for their loved ones, the disappeared, victims of that Thatcher-supported dictatorship.
In essence, what we have is a film about the search for truth, about attempts to make a reckoning with or understand the past. One is heartrending and traumatic and always skirting despair, while the other is scientific and objective and edifying.
When the film is over, and long after, you find yourself reflecting on the kind of creature we are and can be.