Monday, September 11, 2006

Cinema....Mi Mejor Enemigo

I went to see this film by Chilean director Alex Bowen Carranza without very high expectations and have to say that I enjoyed it much more than I expected. Having worked for a while in Chile a few years ago, I recall a dinner conversation one night when some of those present were talking about how close Chile and Argentina were to going to war in 1978 over a border dispute. The two countries at the time were both controlled by military dictatorships at the height of their powers.

The film tells the story of a Chilean army patrol, consisting mostly of conscripts, sent out to control a remote point on the frontier between the two countries. The patrol gets lost in the flat featureless Patagonian wilderness and can no longer even be sure whether they are in Chile or in Argentina, with nothing visible to mark the frontier. Ordered to maintain a position, they dig trenches and wait for further orders. Then one day they find themselves with an Argentinian patrol for neighbours, who have dug their own trenches a short distance away.

With no war yet declared each patrol has to get used to the presence of the other in a zone where there is nothing else to be seen. Slowly they begin to fraternise as the solitude of their surroundings and the absurdity of their situation begin to tell. Human relationships get the better of the requirements of military discipline with its associated need to have an enemy to hate. The film works well in showing the futility of a conflict over a frontier that is not even properly defined, and which means nothing to anyone who passes through the area. It doesn't go much beyond that, not entering into more political territory concerning the nature or actions of the regimes in both countries. It doesn't have the oppressive and slightly depressing atmosphere of Iluminados por el Fuego, a film with a similar theme about the Argentinian conscripts who were sent to defend the Falklands/Malvinas from the British. However, in that film the war actually took place, and the conditions portrayed are necessarily much more miserable.

It is not a film that will have very wide distribution, only two cinemas in Madrid seem to be showing it at the moment, but I recommend it to anyone who gets the chance to see it.

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