SHORT REVIEWS (35): DREAMS OF ICE / SUEÑOS DE HIELO
In a recent conference, Agüero used a fortunate metaphor— the tradition of cinema is like an ocean, you enter in it and from it arises a particular work. His choice is understandable. Often, Agüero’s cinema has something of a sea adventure. It so happens that this son of a member of the Navy (before it was overtaken by Pinochet’s supporters) chose to navigate on the land with a camera. Wasn’t El otro día some sort of expedition in which Captain Agüero established an affective bond among some of the inhabitants of various ‘archipelagos’ located in Santiago de Chile?
The only film actually filmed at sea by Agüero is the extraordinary Sueños de hielo. An absurd government project in 1992 ends up becoming an opportunity for him to make his sea film. The true story is that a ship had to transport 200 tons of ice—an Austral iceberg for exhibition at the Universal Exhibition—from Antarctica to Seville.
Agüero records the sea-crossing—and on that stack of images he adds an off-screen voice, a magnificent text, some visual quotes from John Huston’s Moby Dick, a soundtrack with whale singing (attributed to the icebergs), and sound excerpts from Bartók and Ravel—to transform a journey which originally lacked mystery into an ocean-crossing truly up to any sea-related literary genre. Not only can Melville be felt, but also Pigafetta, Darwin, and Conrad. For civilization, the sea is the other.
The importance of the word doesn’t tarnish the imposing shots that the physical material of the film provides; rather, it suggests how fiction is potentially anchored in reality. The cleverness of the film resides in a solidary work and the proposed cadence between visual associations produced by the edition and the narrative plus of a story which becomes gradually weirder and suggests the dramatic concerns which sea can kindle in men. From Antarctica to Panama and from there to Seville, the narrator transmits awe, horror, despair, serenity, freedom. The surprises of the story are unsuspected. A 56-minute-long masterpiece.
Sueños de hielo, Chile, 1993.
Written and directed by Ignacio Agüero.
This film can be watched at dafilms.com.
Check this conversation between Agüero and I on his whole work.