Thursday, October 3, 2013
Redemption - dir. Miguel Gomes, 2013.
I don't mean to brag, but this film is my other blog, If You Can Read This, You're Lying.
This 26 minute-long short film consists of the following four segments of found footage with voice-over narration:
1. Documentary-seeming footage of the lives of white children in Africa in the 1960's and 1970's with the Portugese voice-over of a young boy reading a letter to his parents. The boy grew up in one of Portugal's African colonies and is currently in boarding school in Portugal. He's implausibly precocious. "Portugal is a very sad place and it will also be so." He was raised to believe that Portugal was the font of civilization, so his discovery that Portugal is actually just "a bunch of poor people leading on skrawny oxen, unable even to feed themselves" has not only disappointed him but retroactively robbed his childhood in Africa of its charm. His family will soon be kicked out of the colony by "evil people" interested in "revolution." But he has already lost the idea of home.
2. Footage seemingly lifted from Italian Neorelist films of Italian modernity--factories, telecommunications centers, printing presses, hospitals with all the then-latest technology, crowded piazzas. A voice-over, in Italian, of a man reading a letter to his lost love, Alessandra. The voice we hear seems seems younger than the author of the text, who says that he has lived a long, full life, which has naturally earned him the envy of others and the persecution of authorities. He has loved over a thousand women--this is "a public fact"--but no one really knows him, he says, unless they know the story of his true love. When he was a boy during the post-War period, he threw a rock through the window of the home of a fascist family. The family was chased out of town, and the daughter, Alessandra, was his true love. He's never gotten over her. What happened to you, Alessadra? Do you have children? Do men whistle at you? "Did you vote for me?"
3. Super 8 home movies of a father playing with his children accompanied by the French voiceover of a man reading a letter written to his daughter on the eve of him quitting his job. The daughter is still a child, but the letter is clearly meant to be read when she is an adult. The father begs for forgiveness for how absent he was during her childhood. He makes extravagant "promises of future love"--to connect her with the top instructors in Europe if she wants to be a ballerina, with the European Space Program if she wants to be an astronaut. Just do not resent me if you remember back to when you were a child, playing in the park, and you find me absent at your side, he says. Do not blame me that I wasn't there for you to ask me what my favorite color was, what my favorite animal was. I no longer had a favorite color or a favorite animal, and I don't know when I stopped having one, he says. Like in the first segment, this is a story of loss twice over.
4. Footage of weddings and lovemaking in the 1970's superimposed with images of scientific experiments and physics equations, accompanied by the German voiceover of a woman reading what seems to be a diary entry made on her wedding day. "Today is the happiest day of my life." She is marrying the man she loves. Her parents are pleased. Senior members of the University of Leipzig and and the Deutsche Demokratische Republik Communist Party will be there. But her happiness is imperiled by a song stuck in her head: the prelude to Wagner's Percival (which plays, gloriously, on the film's soundtrack). She recalls the time she saw Percival live in a trip to West Germany--a trip she only got to go on, she says guiltily, because of her father's connections. She felt conflicted for loving Wagner's music even though she'd been taught he was a fascist. She thinks about the pair of jeans she brought back to the East and feels guilty. Everything suddenly feels false. It's not just that she feels as though she has somehow unconsciously betrayed the revolution, but that she knows that the revolution has already been betrayed by the corruption and impotence of the East German leadership, the very guests at her wedding.
As the prelude to Percival climaxes, a text appears on the screen listing the authors of the above-described voice-over narrations:
1. Pedro Passos Coelho
2. Silvio Berlusconi
3. Nicolas Sarkozy
4. Angela Merkel
A few shots from home movies of a man pouring a glass a champagne, and then another text:
All texts are the products of the imagination of the filmmaker.