The Winter: Foreman needed for Patagonian ranch
by Aida Amasuno Martín
- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2016: Director Emiliano Torres takes the winter shearing as his point of departure for an exploration of generational change in this co-production between Argentina and France
This is a story about the old (Evans) and the new (Jara). Making a bid for the Golden Shell at the 64th San Sebastian International Film Festival, The Winter [+see also:
film profile] is the debut film from Argentine director Emiliano Torres. It’s a story of the transition between two generations, told from two perspectives: that of a man forced to retire from working life and that of the one brought in to replace him. Despite the scarcity of dialogue and the slow pacing (some might well get the impression that it’s one of those films where “nothing happens”), The Winter comes as a pleasant surprise and will leave its audience with much to ponder long after the credits have stopped rolling. Why? Because it’s a film that raises questions that are never fully resolved; because it evokes emotion more than the intellect; and because its creator would rather you formed your own opinion than do it for you.
It engages our interest by immersing us in the perspectives of both characters: one at the end of his working life, the other taking up the baton. There are no victims or persecutors here, just two people either struggling to adapt to a hostile environment or struggling to stay. The film is tinged with nostalgia, portraying a rural world where silence reigns and conversation is not always welcome, set against the spectacularly beautiful Patagonian landscape.
Emiliano Torres delves deep into what has become a recurring cinematic theme — the transition between two generations — but placed in a setting that we rarely encounter: the everyday reality of those striving to eke a living from the land in an unforgiving environment, under harsh conditions and cut off from the rest of the world. We are left wondering, however, whether the tyranny of winter is simply an excuse, the bleak climate a mere backdrop to Torres’ portrait of a man more attached to the land than to people. Themes like family, patriarchy, solitude, death and technological change can also be found here, as well as the fragility of employment in today’s world. Evans has devoted his entire life to the ranch, diligently caring for it as if it were his own; but when he grows older and becomes slower and less agile, the owners don’t hesitate for a second before showing him the door. The Winter, like Juan Taratutto’s The Reconstruction, is a profound examination of both the human tendency to become disconnected from emotion and the cruelties of the Patagonian winter.
Alejandro Sieveking (the elderly Evans), seen recently in Pablo Larraín’s oppressive and metaphysical The Club, gives a subtle, richly nuanced and beautifully understated performance, while Cristian Salguero continues to carve out a well-deserved place in the South American scene with his delicate and intense interpretation of Jara, the new foreman. Fans of Santiago Mitre will remember him for his role as Ciro in last year’s Paulina [+see also:
Mountains, sheep, men and solitude: surviving the winter or surviving oneself... The Winter is a co-production between France and Argentina, produced by Wanka Cine, Ajímolido Films (both from Argentina) and France’s Cité Films which is also handling international sales.