For Reel

Aita (2010)
March 30, 2012, 4:10 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: José María de Orbe

The inspiration for Aita, director José María de Orbe’s gorgeous blend of documentary and fiction filmmaking, was a poem by the Peruvian poet César Vallejo. It speaks of a house as a witness to life, versing, for instance, “New houses are deader than old ones, for their walls are of stone or steel, but not of men.” A centuries-old Basque home is the centerpiece of Aita, and, indeed, it teems with life, reminiscing of its own history as if sentient. Like a ghost story of sorts, when the lights are out and the elderly caretaker is not present, decomposed nitrate films flicker on the walls of the decaying estate. In these scenes, Orbe presents a memorable interaction between two aged works of art, and in doing so rouses interest in the ways that our own histories are shared and stored. The editing rhythm of the picture reflects such a fascination, as each shot lingers for seconds longer than what is traditionally expected – Orbe is not only fascinated by what the characters do while on screen, but in the emptiness of the environment that they had inhabited moments before. In addition to the nightly hauntings and the rich summation of what the maintenance work entails, the caretaker and a local priest engage in a series of highly metaphysical conversations about life after death. One of them posits, for instance, that hearing is the last sense to go after death, and that, although the brain doesn’t process noises any longer, the act of listening remains when the rest has gone. Modest as it seems, Aita is one of the most beautiful, profoundly meditative viewing experiences of recent years.

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