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Liverpool

March 30, 2012

Liverpool (2008)
Director: Lisandro Alonso
Actors: Juan Fernández, Nieves Cabrera, Giselle Irrazabal

liverpool-4.jpg (338×190)

Synopsis: A merchant sailor returns to his home in Tierra del Fuego after spending most of his life at sea.

Review: If you’ve ever wondered what life on the fringes of this planet looks like – namely Ushuaia, Argentina, the world’s southern-most city – then this film is for you. Shot with the intensity and otherworldliness of a science-fiction movie, Lisandro Alonso’s directorial gaze follows middle-aged sailor Farrel, as he disembarks from his commercial freighter in Ushuaia, before making his way into the rural, snowbound nether regions of Tierra del Fuego to find his family.

There’s a definite geographic and anthropological slant to Alonso’s filmmaking, as the camera follows almost silently (bar the diegetic sound) Farrel as he navigates his way from the strange interior of the freighter, to the seedy bars and eateries of Ushuaia, to the treacherous journey inland to rural Tierra del Fuego where its residents live an attritional life in the snowy wilderness. Alonso resists spoon-feeding the narrative subtext, instead letting the action and terrain of the film speak for itself – we learn from Farrel’s continual swigging on a vodka bottle and his passing out in strange places that he’s obviously a dissolute alcoholic, and the attitude of his family on his return (complete indifference) speaks volumes for his past actions and how bourgeois family angst is a luxury not afforded to the peoples of such a hostile environment. The scene that crystallises this great merging of style and content is when Farrel tries to make peace with his estranged daughter in the middle of a snowbound field. After the daughter has rejected Farrel one last time, the camera stays with her while Farrel trudges off into the snowbound distance, fading literally and symbolically into an irretrievable abyss. (March 2012)

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