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Sunday, August 14, 2022

a film on another film, with surprising results

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In 1920, a Swedish team arrives in Argentina with the task of documenting the life of the Pilagá, the original people. The product of the long and arduous journey to the Chaco formoseño was Following the Indian trails of the Pilcomayo Rivera film built from the reels that survived the trip, edited and premiered in Stockholm only in 1950.

But there was another testimony, Gustav Emil Haeger’s personal diary, military man in charge of the expedition, who took notes of everything he saw. The Swedish company was one of the last gasps of the expansionist spirit of the 19th century, which combined the colonialist impulse with a taste for the exotic and the unknown.

More than a hundred years later, the luminous fieldby Cristian Pauls, which can be seen throughout the month of August at the San Martín Cultural Center, repeats the journey for other purposes: to know what became of the pilagá descendantsa town that after the Rincón Bomba massacre in 1947 was dispersed to the point of eclipsing itself from history.

Repeat the same paths

The new film by Cristian Pauls is called "The Luminous Field" and is seen at the San Martín Cultural Center.

The new film by Cristian Pauls is called “The Luminous Field” and is seen at the San Martín Cultural Center.

Director Christian Pauls (around the corner) travels the same paths as its Swedish ancestors together with an expert linguist in the Pilagá language.

The initial question about the language of the people yields to the pressure of other issues: the grandchildren of the Pilagá who were able to escape the massacre of 1947 They lead a very different life from that of their ancestors.of which only the language, the stories heard and some rituals seem to survive.

The film operates in the interval: while Haeger’s expedition, captivated by the exoticism of the region and its inhabitants, searches for an ancestral tribe totally foreign to European customs, Pauls and his traveling companion, on the other hand, find families where the tradition seems to have inevitably merged with other cultural institutions such as the school, the Catholic Church or even psychoanalysis (an interviewee interprets a dream referring to the “subconscious”).

The film replaces shots of Following the Indian trails of the Pilcomayo River and excerpts from Haeger’s diary. The film ponders over these registers, and the reflection leads (could not be otherwise) to the authors of the same. The reels shot by the Swedish team filmmaker record both the surrounding world and the cameraman’s point of view and, by extension, of an entire civilization.

The director points out that the vision of the Swedes is inevitably shaped by the presuppositions of the time: in Haeger’s group, then, the impulse to capture a remnant of primitive life, in the wild, before its disappearance, is inseparable from the project of European positivism.

"The Luminous Field", the film by Cristian Pauls.

“The Luminous Field”, the film by Cristian Pauls.

with its own power

This characterization of the records of the Swedish expedition does not prevent the film from appropriating the power of the film material and Haeger’s personal diary. The latter’s remarks, read in Swedish, give Pauls’ images an overwhelming atmosphere, which swings between perplexity and wonder (the passages heard from Parsifalfrom Wagner).

Haeger’s notes show a mute stupor, without adjectives, before a world inaccessible to him. There is a hint of sublimity there, a Herzog-like wonder, which overflows the psyche and the senses of those who experience it.

The words of the Swedish soldier resonate in the shots filmed in the present and suggest both distances and insistences. the luminous field shows discreet respect for their sourceswhether the records of the expedition or the testimonies of the Pilagá descendants.

Interested in the mystery of a tradition and its ups and downs over time, Pauls eschews both political correctness and paternalism that tend to contaminate these issues.

In black and white.  An image from "The Luminous Field", a film by Cristian Pauls.

In black and white. An image from “The Luminous Field”, a film by Cristian Pauls.

In the end, the film is silent and shows fragments of the original film: the effect is the shock produced by an irreducible and fatally lost otherness. The images do not show an idealized “other”, tamed in the name of diversity, but rather the unfathomable customs of a people whose mystery the director refuses to explain.


the luminous field

Qualification: very good

(Argentina/2022). Direction, script, photography and production: Christian Pauls. Edition: Luisa Paes, Ignacio Masllorens and Cristian Pauls. Sound: Joaquin Rajadel and Paula Ramirez. Music: Richard Wagner. Duration: 127 minutes. Living room: San Martin Cultural Center, Sarmiento 1551, CABA.


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Reference from clarin www.clarin.com

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