I do not remember if I have ever watched a film from the 2010s after it has been put on the 1001 list. Sure, I’ve seen plenty before their inclusion, but once they are on there I tend to give them a wide berth as their position on the list is precarious and it is time I could spend crossing off another film with a more sturdy foothold.
However, for a decade now, Nostalgia for the Light has remained in place. Given this, and that I’ve been putting off watching this for so long thanks to list insecurity, I figured it was about time I just put it on. After all, it would remain relevant for my Around The World In 100 Films challenge and this is a great film to see in order to cross off Chile.
Astronomy, archaeology and history unite in this brilliant documentary directed by Patricio Guzmán, whose The Battle of Chile trilogy has been on my watchlist for ages. All three fields are tied together by Chile’s Atacama Desert. Astronomers are drawn there by the lack of humidity in order to gaze into the origins of the universe, archaeologists come here to look at the lives of Chile’s indigenous peoples and historians of more recent history will be interested in how it became the staging of concentration camps and mass burials under the rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Nostalgia for the Light finds a way to weave these different fields of study that look into the past – at varying degrees of distance. It also makes a point of how it is the most recent history that is the hardest to study because of cover-ups and information lost by the dead. It’s one of those documentaries that is fascinating, beautiful and then harrowing. Stories of woman spending decades scouring the desert for the bones of their loved ones feature in between stunning shots of galaxies and nebulae.
All these are topics that interest me greatly and to have them all put together in such a brilliant way leaves me with high hopes that despite being a recent entry on the list, there are not many films out there like Nostalgia for the Light. Especially one that tells the story of a nation that lays out of the mostly US-European centric view of the 1001 list.