Fatherland brings a rigorous structural approach to a site of monuments that is also a place of movement, criss-crossed daily by tourists and locals. The grounds are laid out like city ...
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In April 1964, more than 20 years after the Nazis won World War II, an SS officer named Xavier March uncovers a plot to eliminate the attendees of the Wannsee Conference so that Germany can establish better relations with the US.
Fatherland brings a rigorous structural approach to a site of monuments that is also a place of movement, criss-crossed daily by tourists and locals. The grounds are laid out like city blocks, with wide avenues branching onto laneways filled with elaborate mausoleums. The film does not attempt to tour the cemetery as one would on foot, however, but rather moves chronologically through the history enshrined there. A series of individuals are framed in static compositions as they read aloud excerpts from the writings of noteworthy Argentines interred within. (Some license has been taken, as the final resting places of certain figures represented - such as journalist Rodolfo Walsh, who was among the "disappeared" - remain unknown. The result is both poetic and political.) Beginning in the early 1800s, this history comprises civil war, battles with the country's native population, the conflict between the city and the provinces, and years of military dictatorship. This structure is ...Written by
but still quite good. And it's probably a safe bet to say that you've never seen a documentary quite like Fatherland (Tierra de los Padres). Indeed there must be other movies or documentaries about cemeteries - though I can't think of a lot offhand. On one level Fatherland is a kind of historical/travel film, a highly idiosyncratic tour of the La Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires. Not so surprising, the property is said to be haunted by many of its interred residents in their afterlife.
The story line is: a person, presumably an actor or author, book in hand, stands in front of a tomb and reads extracts from writings penned by the dead buried inside, including Eva Peron. Then the reader vanishes, after which there's a short transition and the next reader appears. One might be forgiven for thinking this sounds like a recipe for mega boredom. However, I found myself hooked after about fifteen minutes and found it, as the saying goes, compulsively watchable.
As much as Fatherland's approach is imaginative, be advised that everything moves at a stately pace and provides precious letup in mood and tone. Thus if your thing is squealing tires, gunfights and fiery conflagrations, then better pass this one by.
A few quibbles: sometimes the individual readings go on a bit long, and the prelude and epilogue which serve as bookends might have been cut entirely without damaging the main body of the film. Still, a thought-provoking, moving work, fine as it is. But at a slow 100 minutes, it might have been an even better film had director Nicolás Prividera benefited from some judicious editing. Seven stars.
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