Old film footage from a Super 8mm camera shows a large family gathering from years ago on the screen. A small child beats a pinata, a mother holds her son, a grand villa stands stately behind them. In the present day, the secluded house—aptly named La Soledad (loneliness in English)—is in ruins, only a shadow of its former beauty. Now, there are cracks running across the walls, the crown moulding is becoming unfastened, and most rooms sit unfurnished and abandoned. Although the gates that enclose the property are broken, and the villa is unkempt, the beauty of the once great structure surrounded by lush greenery lends charm to the decaying home. The house serves as an ever-present reminder of the economic gap in Venezuela.
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The rich owners have long since moved out, but they allow the caretaker, Rosina, her grandson Jose, and the rest of the family, to live in the house. In the declining Venezuelan economy, the owners plan to sell the house which only places more strain on Jose and his family. In a particularly powerful scene, Marley, Jose’s wife, sits on their bed, hunched over, her head in her hands, as Jose tries hopelessly to comfort her. The characters often mill about the broken but beautiful property, examining the cracks in the marble floor or exploring the overgrown, verdant plants that shade the house. Jose desperately, methodically searches La Soledad with a metal detector in hopes of finding buried treasure. He stoically moves from broken room to broken room. Jose lingers in the kitchen, the cabinets barely holding onto their hinges. In that moment of contemplation, it becomes clear that his quest is noble, but not a lasting solution in the face of poverty.
LA SOLEDAD melds genres for dynamic storytelling
The film walks the line between narrative and documentary, blending genres. The story is plucked straight from reality and the actors are nonprofessionals who live on the property, playing themselves. In this writer’s view, this allows for a deeply resonant picture to form, a quiet but critical contemplation of post-colonialism and class disparity. LA SOLEDAD moves slowly, and takes its time, frequently capturing the inaction of a character. Much of the film is spent with a poised but emotional Jose, taking in his environment and his circumstance.
The camera is often still; LA SOLEDAD looks and feels like a documentary. The actors, and the blur between what is film and what is everyday life for them, is what tells the story. From searching the city for a doctor that hasn’t run out of Rosina’s medicine, to standing in line outside a grocery store only to see it has been completely picked over when let in, and more—there are many scenes that illustrate the struggles that Jose’s family faces in Venezuela.
LA SOLEDAD focuses on poverty by telling a story of class struggles set to the beautiful backdrop of Venezuela’s green landscape. If you are a fan of fast paced action films, LA SOLEDAD might not be the movie for you, but if you like slow cinema and movies that push you to be more cognizant of the remnants of colonialism, give this film a watch.
For more information or to watch the film, visit the OVID.tv page for LA SOLEDAD.
Directed by Jorge Thielen Armand
Written by Rodrigo Michelangeli and Jorge Thielen Armand
Jose Dolores Lopez (Jose El Negro)
Adrializ Lopez (Adrializ)
Marley Alvillares (Marley)
Jorge Thielen Hedderich (Jorge)
Maria Agamez Palomino (Rosina Palomino)
Cristina Armand (Cristina)
Director Armand’s own personal Super 8 footage that opens the film.
Empty grocery store shelves highlight poverty and shortages in Venezuela.
Irene (left), the homeowner, and Rosina (right), the housekeeper, speak, their classes visually represented by the gate’s division.
Jose uses a metal detector to search for hidden treasure around the decaying villa’s grounds.
Images courtesy of OVID.tv