The Pearl Button
“In order to talk about profound tragedies, genocide that takes place, looking at Palestine or Syria, talking about Chile or Argentina indeed for that matter, it’s very important to use metaphor because metaphor is very expressive, very evocative. We’ve seen images of mass graves, we’ve seen images of the Nazi concentration camps and that has been with us for quite a while already. Nowadays we still need to talk abut these events, but it is perhaps best explained in an indirect way using the language of poetry. I think it is indispensable, in a way, to seek out that language when talking about these phenomena because it is also important to speak about pain and this is a very effective way to do it.”
Embedded in the image above is a brief clip of Patricio Guzman’s ‘The Pearl Button’, a companion to his 2010 film ‘Nostalgia for the Light‘. Yesterday he won best screenplay for his film at the Berlin International Film Festival, which is very unusual for a documentary to win such an award. I would expect this to arrive in cinemas before the years end.
Guzman is a poet who in assembling his films creates connections using metaphor to complement historical and scientific evidence that along with his compelling images makes for a powerful and resonant experience. His previous film drew connections between the stars seen through powerful telescopes in the Chilean desert, to the (star) dust floating in our air, to the dust of the ‘disappeared’ from Pinochet’s terror whose remains became part of that same desert – all interwoven in a meditation on memory.
“I think that life is memory, everything is memory. There is no present time and everything in life is remembering. I think memory encompasses all life, and all the mind. I’m not simply me—I’m my father and all that came before me, who are millions. Nostalgia for the Light sprung from this concept. It involves body and soul but also matter, the earth, the cosmos, all combined.
But there’s a constant contradiction between memory and history. It’s a conflict. The official Chilean historical record in regard to the 1973 coup d’état is a disaster. For nearly forty years now there has been denial of memory (like there was in Spain too after Franco’s death).”
‘The Pearl Button’
‘The Pearl Button’ revolves not around the theme of dust but of water – around the idea that comets first brought water to this planet, that Chile’s largest border is ocean, that only 20 people remain from five indigenous tribes who lived on the coast that were decimated by colonial invaders. This same ocean is where the Pinochet regime dumped over a thousand bodies of people who were declared enemies of the state. Guzman continues his meditation on the idea of memory suggesting that water has a memory. It remembers those who perished in it. It and we are seeded from the stars just as we are made of stardust, he reminds us that our bodies are also mostly water. This film is also a meditation on how not only Chile but our modern civilization has lost its connection to the intrinsic value of our world, to its people and to its surroundings. If water has a memory then it is also a witness to our sorrowful history, whether we choose to remember it or not.