Nostalgia For The Light seamlessly connects the constellations of astronomy and the fossilisations of archeology with that of the tyrannical Pinochet dictatorship. Past. Present. Future. Time is nothing more than a grain of sand basking in the expansivity of the Atacama desert. A multitude of particulates comprising the essence of universal history. Humanity, throughout centuries of beguiling empires and colossal civilisations, expends precious present time to research forgotten pasts in order to shape the future. To better society for the next generation. To evolve as an intellectual species. To live and learn. Astronomers magnify their tender visions towards the stars, attempting to acquire omniscient knowledge for the origins of life. Stars that, whilst illuminate the night sky with faint glimmers of freedom, have since perished. The light of a past life, gliding across space and time. Observatories prevailing the mountainous peaks of the Chilean deserts, never glancing down on the arid ground. Archeologists scavenge the vastness of perilous lands to uncover the remnants of primordial civilisations. Buried beneath the bustling metropolises that preside over the earthly layers of desolation. Scanning the facets of crimson rocks beneath the blistering sun of the Atacama desert for pre-Colombian scriptures, always searching beneath the scorched ground. Both professions delicately observing the past to answer questions that have remained undetermined.
Yet both ignore the significance of an “insignificant” massacre that is conveniently concealed by Chilean society. The Pinochet regime. A military dictatorship that detained and slaughtered thousands of Chileans, obscuring the remaining evidence by moulding mass graves in the midst of the wilderness. A particulate in history that the modern Chilean populous have audaciously decided to ignore. However, a selection of zealous women scout the Atacama landscape foraging for fragments of shattered bones, in the glimmering hope that the remnants of their beloved will be uncovered. The human tenacity tested. A near impossible task for peace and solace. Scouring the desertification of the past, to seek comfort for the future. Much like astronomers and archeologists, these women are on the same emphatic journey for answers. All delving into the past to establish a greater understanding.
Guzmán’s cinematic diary, whilst tackling the sociopolitical ignorance of the Pinochet dictatorship, existentially challenges the national application of insufficient accountability through the metaphoric connectivity between the regime’s outlook and astronomy. Two initially diverse subjects somehow manufacturing a multitude of succinct links that convey the ferocious human spirit. Transitioning between various professions, utilising articulate interviews and profound commentary, to devise various associations that elude to a thematic symbiotic relationship. The female individuals foraging the desert for splinters of calcium, in the form of bone fragments, whilst astronomers scan calcium levels within the remnants of stars. Guzmán visually comparing the two through the usage of still slides. Commencing with close-ups of asteroids and moons before metamorphosing the images to bone fragments, assimilating an indistinguishable identical form. Cinematic examples such as the aforementioned further enhance the interchangeable thematic quest, searching for fractured past life in the present.
Various connections may initially seem tenuous, especially when focusing on the survivors from the Chacabuco concentration camp, but that’s where Guzmán’s enlightening commentary comes into fruition. Describing Lawner’s time at Chacabuco, whom was referred to as an “architect” for his acute ability in memorising the prison’s infrastructure by systematically counting how many steps dictated each wall, may originally seem insubstantial. Until Guzmán concludes his interview with a scholarly comment regarding Lawner’s wife. The couple are a metaphor for Chile. He remembers the past, she, whom is suffering with Alzheimer’s disease, is forgetting.
Circling back to the primary purpose of Nostalgia For The Light. We should never forget, but instead remember. To educate ourselves into uncovering our own origins. Bolstered by provocative imagery, with much applause aimed towards Dijon’s exquisite cinematography (except the commonly used stardust filter that cheapened the cinematic quality of the documentary), and poetic narrative flow, Guzmán relentlessly tackles the parallels time offers to humanity. Physically transporting us on a self-discovering journey across the cosmos and the sprawling ground beneath our ignorant feet. We expend substantial amounts of time surveying remnants of remnants in a bid to discover answers, yet those who do not are unable to understand their past. There is no beginning or future to them. Only existence as a shell. “Compared to the immensity of the cosmos, the problems of the Chilean people might seem insignificant. But if we laid them out on a table, they would be as vast as a galaxy”.