Ixcanul: A majestic journey into the depths of humanity
- BERLIN 2015: Jayro Bustamante immerses us in a Mayan community in the throes of love and pain that is protecting its beautiful serenity
Our representation of the Mayan culture has been deformed by so many filters that Guatemalan-born, French-trained Jayro Bustamante's first feature film is a true gift: this film gives us a rare chance to discover the Mayan community where his roots are. Ixcanul [+see also:
interview: Jayro Bustamante
film profile], presented in competition at the 65th Berlinale, lets us delve into life on a coffee plantation, in the mountains, with a majestic volcano on the horizon, a place where serenity and strength are always found within the group of seasonal workers we observe. Every day, calmly, they accomplish their tasks and talk to one another with simplicity and good humour, openly enough, but also with a deeply elegant degree of modesty. As we watch them, we are immediately aware that we are in the presence of an ancient civilisation: the humanity that the people exude in this country “fragrant with the smell of coffee and volcano” is truly profound and noble in nature.
This nobility is visible in the purity of Maria’s face, a pretty, young, native, 17-year-old woman, who is betrothed to the manager of the plantation. Unbeknownst to her parents, who are loving, but too poor to refuse this arranged marriage, Maria has decided to give her heart to someone else. She even offers herself up completely and directly, with an astonishing resolution, because the seasonal worker Pepe embodies a fantasy that she can only dream of - which shows that behind her pastoral existence, Maria’s life is quite tough.
Her unconditional love perseveres like the dull but powerful rumble within the still volcano, like a groundswell awakened by a snake slithering deep into its depths. Maria is with child, and although the pregnancy is everything but ideal, the archaic superstitions of ancestral wisdom say that the baby wants to live.
Unfortunately, the unfolding of events, catalysed by her desire to run away with Pepe, forces her parents to join their daughter in her urgent state and travel to the modern world, which is too condescending to speak to them in their own language and ultimately help her, even on hospital grounds. After that journey, the true and profound feelings that Maria’s choice brought to the surface turn into a visceral pain, that of separation - a pain felt in her heart and body that is all the more heart-breaking that we can predict that this intense emotion will soon disappear from the surface and go and hide in the heart of the volcano, never to be seen again under the tranquil landscape, where it will remain, with dignity, forgotten by all.
(Translated from French)
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