Las cosas indefinidas | Maria Aparicio

[…] Image makers are thus the Charon's of our modern history, arbitrarily carrying the past to nothingness while resurrecting and reviving a select number of moments, even transferring some happy few to the digital realm, bathing them in the illusion of eternal, endless replay.

[…] It is strange how a film can both give the sense of home and channel the inconceivable, ultimate negation of vision – the void – and how a loss oh so personal can lead the way to the ethics of preservation, ownership, and posterity.

Podcast

Maria Aparicio | Las cosas indefinidas

Live-Podcast at Bildrausch Filmfest Basel 2024 about the film «Las cosas indefinidas» with the director Maria Aparicio, Öykü Sofuoglu, Giuseppe Di Salvatore and Nicolas Bézard | in English (with introduction in French)

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Las cosas indefinidas: At Home and in the Oblivion

Flowers in cinema have always been related to an evocative power beyond words, which comes through their liminal existence between two states of being. Life in actu, death in potentia — or vice versa — they perfectly encapsulate the tension that lies at the essence of the cinematic image. No wonder Maria Aparicio opens her Las cosas indefinidas with a solemn yet peaceful-looking bouquet, carefully arranged in a vase. Symbols of ephemerality caught in stillness, they exude the scent of untimely death. Meanwhile, a woman with long, peppered-grey hair, who will later be introduced to us as Eva, is attending a wake. Her whole being seems to mirror the flowers' bearing — a figure of stoic grace, silently and slowly acquiescing to the grief.

Eva is a film editor who mourns the recent passing of her friend and collaborator, Juan, a film director whose films she also had been working on. She also gives film courses at a university and tries to finish editing a film with her assistant Rami, all while grappling with emotional weight of Juan's loss and dealing with an archive of images he bequeathed to her. The film Eva and Rami are editing involves several interviews with blind people, and when she discovers video footage of the audio recordings she is supposed to edit, Eva gradually immerses herself in the lives of people she barely knows, seeing it as a sort of a duty to do justice to their experiences.

Like many other films that follow film professionals as protagonists, Las cosas indefinidas employs a self-reflexive and meta-cinematic device and yet, rather than inundating its audience with doctrinal or discursive elements on cinema, Aparicio adorns her narrative with personal, intimate details, which are never overtly expressed but instead channelled through the spaces that the film inhabits, as well as through the interactions of its characters. Her subtle presence is also reflected through her voice-over narration and her fictional involvement as the director of the film that Eva has been editing. From its director's perspective, Las cosas indefinidas is a film that feels at home. Though mostly static, Aparicio's camera pulls us towards to those streets, corridors and even apartments that feel so familiar to the director's gaze.

Memory, both personal and cinematic, is surely one of the main themes that the film is invested in. Aparicio's own fascination with the medium becomes especially evident after the opening sequence, where Eva is seen giving a course about the archival aspects of cinema. Reflecting on how cinema has become the archive of the 20th century itself, she stresses that the past, just as malleable as films themselves, can be replayed over and over. The dead, coming to life as shadows, as ghosts of "this-has-been", to refer to Barthes through images, is an idea as old as the photographic apparatus. Aparicio adds yet another layer of thought by questioning the position of image makers – whether editors or directors – regarding archival material, which can also be applied to any unedited footage of a film in process. Keeping certain images, inscribing them to the photosensitive surface, but discarding others is a divine intervention in the stream of the past that pours into oblivion. Image makers are thus the Charon's of our modern history, arbitrarily carrying the past to nothingness while resurrecting and reviving a select number of moments, even transferring some happy few to the digital realm, bathing them in the illusion of eternal, endless replay.

When entrusted with what is left of Juan's past, this responsibility weighs heavily on Eva's shoulders. She's so accustomed to clipping, trimming, and erasing the remnants of the past that the idea of actively – and indeed symbolically – participating in a loved one's disappearance makes her question her own position regarding the images under her care. Even when Rami questions Eva about her plans for Juan's unfinished films, he speaks of them as if they were orphans left behind – a comparison which feels even more fitting when we consider the category "orphan films" within the field of film studies.

The same sense of responsibility is also directed toward Milagros, Facundo, Lucas, Ariel, and all the other blind people whose testimonies are in Eva's hands. Loosely hinted at through Eva's words during her teachings, Aparicio lays the groundwork for a certain 'ethics of image-making' by focussing her film-within-the-film narrative on blindness. To what extent can we create meaning through images that emerge from experiences that we don't – and sometimes can't – own? Should we attempt to create them in the first place? While also relevant to several social and political issues, Aparicio's (and Eva's) concerns are primarily directed at the cinematic medium's properties by questioning its basis, namely vision. For us, the audience, who takes the audio-visual image for granted, considering whether a cinematic image that wouldn't rely on the faculty of vision is possible feels eye-opening, pun intended. How can cinema image and imagine blindness? While Eva comes up with a practical and perhaps naive solution by choosing to focus on dreamscapes where everyone, blind or not, has equal control and giving it the Super 8 texture, it still remains a question that pulls the ground from under our feet.

It is strange how a film can both give the sense of home and channel the inconceivable, ultimate negation of vision – the void – and how a loss oh so personal can lead the way to the ethics of preservation, ownership, and posterity. These distant connections and echoes, which might have ended up being a pompous, hermetic exercise in style, find perfect balance in Maria Aparicio's hands in Las cosas indefinidas.

 

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Las cosas indefinidas | Film | Maria Aparicio | ARG 2023 | 80’ | Bildrausch Filmfest Basel 2024

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First published: June 11, 2024