El silencio es un cuerpo que cae
[…] Killing off a part of your parent is felt in every lingering scene of Comedi as a child ensconced in a bubble of love, cutely demanding the direction of his lens.
[…] «El silencio es un cuerpo que cae» is an interrogation bringing more to the screen than an aesthetic play of images.
Text: Jodie McNeilly-Renaudie | Reading: Nils Jensen | Editing: Annatina Stalder
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Online streaming at Filmar en América Latina Genève 2020 (20-29/11/2020)
In the first ten minutes of Agustina Comedi’s El silencio es un cuerpo que cae the viewer is pulled into the mystery of a family “secret” regarding her father’s life. We are immediately given the task of making sense of these early fragments, experiencing the toll of Comedi’s own interrogation into the realities of Jaime’s world before she was born. A world submerged beneath the responsibilities of family, uncovered through a historic lens and the no longer silenced memories of friends. Together we undergo a process. The film’s coherency and sentimentality demonstrate its significant purpose, far from pure artistic motivation, or obscure “collage junk” formed from intuitive choices. Comedi commands the medium with deliberate sophistication, delivering a touching posthumous “coming out” story.
The “process” we witness is two-fold. On the one hand, we understand the necessity of hiding one’s homosexuality and queerness during the intolerant military dictatorship of 1976-1983 in Argentina, the realities of the AIDS epidemic breeding fear and prejudice within the LGBT community itself and the difficulties of constantly compartmentalising one’s identity, hiding or prioritising its “parts”. The violence of this internal reality is metaphorically depicted by footage of men thrashing about for dear life on the backs of bucking broncos – some making it, others not. The overlaid sound of these disturbing images wrenches the nervous system and we sense the “hetero killing the homo”.
On the other hand, we witness Comedi’s investigation of an ambiguous comment made to her by friends of Jaime soon after his death: «When you were born a part of Jaime passed away». This “part” is delicately exhumed by Comedi from over 100 hours of footage captured by her father, and through interviews that give voice to those who were once forced underground during the years of the junta. When there is oppression, parts become masked. This masking is Comedi’s obsession to understand, to provide meaning to her relationship with Jaime and her role in the patricide. Killing off a part of your parent is felt in every lingering scene of Comedi as a child ensconced in a bubble of love, cutely demanding the direction of his lens. What comes uncomfortably to the fore in this film is the weight of bearing a parent’s bad faith (is he only playing The Part?); the anguish is greater because one is unable to choose for the other. The closing scene of Comedi with her son Luca points to this realization that a part of one’s self withers and dies when we create a life; only then can we step out of the frame.
Are we led to the “real” of the archive? Or are we captive to the rolling out of images with repetitious rewinds to make a point, and artificial transitions that remind us we are listening to a composited reconstruction? The issue with archival footage is that the intentions and interest of the filming eye can never be eroded. Comedi invites us to reinterpret with her how Jaime was seeing. We roam with his gaze on subjects complicit in the capture of their frivolity (gatherings), or his quieter observations. The lens traipses over the grand marble flesh and crevices of Michelangelo’s David, or peers into faces of loved ones — his “choice” affirmed? Super 8 vignettes of the themes “boy”, “male” and “masculinity” render the distinction between reproduction and original footage unclear. This permits Comedi to step into her father’s desire by way of a latent bond brought about by the medium; rushes are liberated and a secret world resurfaces.
El silencio es un cuerpo que cae is an interrogation bringing more to the screen than an aesthetic play of images. Comedi is working something personal out, but is careful not to overlook the broader historical issues of her Country. Personal history goes hand in hand with History, building one weave of which Comedi is able to unfold the details and meanings.
Text: Jodie McNeilly-Renaudie
First published: November 28, 2020
El silencio es un cuerpo que cae | Film | Augustina Comedi | ARG 2017 | 75’ | Filmar en América Latina Genève 2020