El inventor de la selva: building up dreams and tearing them down again
by Alfonso Rivera
- Backed by Isaki Lacuesta and León Siminiani, Jordi Morató’s fascinating documentary regales us with a portrait of an artist who is irresponsible, psychic and 100% free
Programmed in the Documentary section (in which it received a Special Mention from the Málaga University Jury) of the Málaga Film Festival, after having been widely applauded by delighted audiences at the last edition of the Film Festival Rotterdam, the feature debut by Jordi Morató begins with a voice-over, in Catalan, by the director-screenwriter himself, while the camera whooshes over lush vegetation: “A boy used to come to this forest to play. He used to climb trees, cool off in a stream and catch fish with his bare hands. As the years went by, this boy turned into a man who built towers 30 metres high, shacks for animals, a dam in the river and a maze more than a kilometre long, from which he had no hope of escaping. Everyone knew him as Garrell. People used to come and admire his forest, until one day, he destroyed it all and razed it to the ground. He said that he was only playing, that he hadn’t planned any of it, and that he was just doing it on the fly.”
Sobre la marxa (“On the Fly”) is the original Catalan title of the mesmerising El inventor de la selva, the most talked-about documentary over the last few days at Málaga. Over its enjoyable 77-minute running time, the film portrays Garrell, the so-called Tarzan of Argelaguer (Girona), a man who used his free time to build a world tailor-made for him. Morató, who travelled to the area where Garrell had erected his creations after having been enticed by their beauty, had the good fortune not only to meet this entirely free artist, but also to discover the home recordings he made as a boy of around 14, in which this indefinable character directed and starred in joyful versions of the famous films about the king of the jungle.
It is a unique and captivating documentary on account of the personality of its subject, a tireless dream weaver who enjoyed creating these dreams just as much as he did destroying them, in a continuous natural cycle involving the essential elements of water and fire. He describes himself as a “squatter in nature”, as he built his spectacular structures on land that was not his own – land where the sound of nearby roads can always be heard in the background, just like the threat posed by “civilised man”, which is feared equally by the Tarzan he plays and by Garrell himself. And when this threat appears bearing any signs of aggression, it will drive him to burn down and then rebuild his deserted cities in another location, as many as three times.
Morató illustrates this epic and unbelievable adventure with the aforementioned home recordings, with those of an American historian bewitched by Garrell's art as well as with his own, more recent, ones. In all of them, this unknown hero, now 76 years old, appears as a big, playful kid, a crazy visionary, a tireless creator who is fighting against this cursed reality that insists on thwarting his imagination. He is an obstinate romantic: the last of the wild men, pure and free, Herzog-style. Someone who is deserving of being admired; someone so captivating that at the end of the day it is easy to identify with him, since, as he admits to the camera: “In order to live well, I have to make life difficult for myself.”
(Translated from Spanish)