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Preview- La Distancia (East End Film Festival)

Tuesday 17 June 2014, by Judy Harris

La Distancia is fantastically serene, profoundly tactile and deeply pleasurable to both eye and ear. A garden of eerie, earthly delights.

Sergio Caballero’s post-industrial Siberia is a land haunted by radiation and inhabited by foxes, rabbits and telepathic dwarves. Three such dwarves (Scumek, Vólkov and Baransky) have been hired by a captive artist to break into an abandoned power station to steal an enigmatic object known as ‘The Distance’. Their task is both mundane and other-worldly; they set about their preparations with a nonchalant attitude, mirrored in the film’s subdued and undemonstrative aesthetic. The film’s comedic undertone (the rubbing of earlobes, penises and bellies against various surfaces to activate psychical powers) and seeming effortlessness cannot disguise the fact that La Distancia is one of the most visually and aurally accomplished films of the year.

Despite an ethereal, pensive quality, the film has an intense physicality- both in the look and sound of the landscape and the myriad objects therein. The ingenious decision to have almost all communication occur telepathically (save one moment when Baranksy communicates with a lingerie- clad blackjack dealer) creates an atmosphere of steady self-assuredness even as the film is increasingly surreal. The relative lack of movement and contemplative pace mean that the visual and aural details can be properly devoured. Alongside abandoned buildings, Siberian forests and frozen lakes, Marc Gómez del Moral’s cinematography is blissfully attentive to the tone and texture of more mundane objects- frayed ropes, rabbit’s ears, tin buckets etc. Almost every shot is perfectly framed and the film is full of captivating shapes and sounds. Funnels, slits, lines and holes are filled with fire, smoke, soot and rubble. You can almost taste the volcanic ash. The film’s soundscape is superb, at once subtle and acute, from unidentified mechanized whirring to the clang of a birdcage hitting the side of a well. This intensity is delivered in tandem with a devil may care attitude. It’s beautiful. It’s bizarre. It’s rugged, frozen, abandoned, alight. It doesn’t matter.

The plot of the film defies description, its power lies in its bizarre sensuality and astounding imagery, a visual and aural treasure which must be seen rather than ‘read’. This is a film which asks little of its audience, save that you do the same. When trying to identify how the guard at the power station can disappear in and out of photographs Baransky declares it’s the result of over-exposure to radiation which has left several soldiers ‘unable to control the visualization of their physical matter in movement’. Entirely the opposite is true of Caballero.

La Distancia is showing at the Hackney Picturehouse Froday 20th June as part of the East End Film Festival- followed by a Q&A with cast and crew.

Tickets here:

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