El Otro: A moving existential road movie
by Annika Pham
13/02/2007 - Today’s competition film, El Otro (The Other) [trailer] by Argentinean filmmaker Ariel Rotter, is a pleasant existential sonata following the inner journey of a man, played by the charismatic Julio Chavez. The film, co-produced with France and Germany, was applauded at the end of its press screening and could be a festival hit this year.
Juan Desouza is a lawyer in his late 40s, happily married and an expectant father. However, the vision of his father’s deteriorating body and his difficulty in caring for himself start to make his mind wander. On a business trip, he realises that the man sitting next to him on the bus is not sleeping but dead. The dramatic event slowly touches him deep down, reaching his heart and soul. He decides to take on the dead man’s identity and stay in the country village where the man used to live.
He embarks on an inner journey, detaching himself from his real life, rediscovering his simplest instincts. He eventually goes back home, stronger from this spiritually soothing experience. “This film is about a man who tries to understand his life cycle”, said Rotter during the press conference. “The film puts the character outside his own life and the universe he encounters is seen only through his eyes, the way he feels”.
The film subtly explores the apprehension of death as well as the palpable yet invisible world that lurks underneath the surface. Few words are needed. We feel with Juan and easily relate to him. The scenes where he cares for his father, becoming his father’s father, are particularly moving.
Chavez, seen last year in the Berlin competition film El Custodio [trailer], is impeccable, able to express both strength and vulnerability. Rotter also makes a comeback to the Berlinale, five years after his acclaimed feature debut Just For Today.
It was supported by the Hubert Bals, World Cinema and Sud Cinema film funds, Visions Sud Est and Argentina’s INCAA.