Cinema Review: Nostalgia for the Light

DIR/Wri: Patricio Guzmán • PRO: Meike Martens, Renate Sachse • DOP: Katell Djian • ED: AlPatricio Guzmán, Emmanuelle Joly • Cast: Gaspar Galaz, Lautaro Núñez, Luís Henríquez

Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia for the Light is a superbly crafted and visually stunning poetic meditation on the past – taking in both the cosmological search and desire to discover; and the personal loss and need to recover. These are brought together in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, a completely barren terrain covering 40,600 square miles and one of the driest places on the planet.

The desert with its the thin atmosphere and low humidity provides the perfect visibility for astronomers to gaze out into the infinite unknown. It also served as Pinochet’s dumping ground for the bodies of over 27,000 murdered political prisoners.

The film ponders the astronomers’ search into the past and Chile’s failure to come to terms with its past. Largely ignored by society, it is the mothers and wives of the buried dead who search the desert tirelessly to recover the remains of their past. The film explores how these two searches are inextricably linked to each other – one into the sky above; the other into the land below.

The film is exquisitely photographed and captures the awesome visions of the cosmos alongside the sweeping panoramas of barren desertscapes. Yet despite the stunning imagery and cosmological meanderings the film’s soul lies within the human stories and the heartbreaking experiences of the mothers combing the desert for 30 years in search of what is rightly theirs. As one of them, 70-year-old Victoria searching for her son’s remains, says, ‘I just want to find him before I die.’

A bold achievement and intense experience, Nostalgia for the Light is a remarkable reflection on humanity’s place in the cosmic scheme of things.


Steven Galvin

90 mins
Nostalgia for the Light is released on 13th July 2012

Nostalgia for the Light– Official Website


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