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LOCARNO 2014 Signs of Life

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Antigone Awake: a myth in our subconscious


- Lupe Pérez Garcia's second feature, an experimental and rather abstract retelling of Sophocles' tragedy, is being presented at Locarno

Antigone Awake: a myth in our subconscious

In only 63 minutes, Antigone Awake [+see also:
film profile
 – which positions itself proudly in the very fringes of cinema – leaves its viewer confused, surprised and a little bit disconcerted: creatures of all kinds appear on screen, the narrative does not unfold along the lines of logic, and even the setting of the film knows no bounds. It is futile to try and come up with a rational analysis in the face of such a genre spectacle. Therefore, this reviewer has decided to spend a couple of hours figuring out how his psyche was affected by the images that the Argentinean director (currently living in Spain) has brought onto the screen. 

The day after watching the film, these flashes of images remain burnt onto the retina: vultures crowding around something (maybe a corpse) to feed on as a woman approaches them; a motorcyclist confessing to the camera how he discovered his passion after having looked death in the face; kids playing with an insect, enveloped by a beam of dream-like light; a castle where regular visitors mingle with classical figures from an immortal legend; and a dromedary roaming around a Spanish desert that serves as the backdrop to a clash between Russians and Germans. 

Lupe Pérez Garcia's film is all of the above, and a lot more besides. The director has let her film loose in the non-competitive Signs of Life section at the Locarno Film Festival, which will surely mark just the beginning of a tour around the various festivals focusing on alternative, unconventional and bold narratives. Financed by Toma 78 (the same company that kick-started Mama [+see also:
making of
film profile
 by Andrés Muschietti), the film is produced by Labyrint Films and was shot by cinematographer Juan Barrero – who enchanted audiences at Venice and Seville with The Inner Jungle [+see also:
film review
interview: Juan Barrero
festival scope
film profile
– as well as starring Gala Perez Iñesta in the role of the protagonist. This is the second feature film (after 2006's Diario argentino) by a director with a great deal of expertise in video art and editing (for example, on Mercedes Álvarez’s El cielo gira and Isaki Lacuesta's El quadern de fang). The project was born of the impossibility of shooting a high-budget adaptation of Antigone in Patagonia. However, thanks to a small crew, the film was shot on the fly on the moors of the almost alien landscapes of Huesca province. 

The land and the animals take hold of what is being shown: during production, real-life people were added to the film as they happened to pass by the set. Faces and experiences – spurred on by the Antigone myth – that are being told in front of the camera, shamelessly blowing the limits of fiction, experimental and documentary filmmaking to smithereens. While, on the one hand, the ambiguous character of Antigone (as immortalised by Sophocles) serves as the film's protagonist, it is the non-professional actors, on the other hand, who provide the film with the sense of naturalism it needs to provoke the same ambivalence in the eyes of the audience.

The freedom stemming from the scaled-back production – the shoot having taken place over the course of only eight days last March, with a six-person crew – has also permeated this cinematic adventure, where reality continually takes hold of the lens, creating a collage that brings to mind the lives of the saints in Pasolini's films, and leaving a strange aftertaste strong enough to stir up the viewer’s subconscious.

(Translated from Spanish)

See also

Basque Cannes
Ex Oriente Film
Jihlava Film Fund

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