Issue 35 (2012)

Victor Kossakovsky: ¡Vivan Las Antipodas! (2011)

reviewed by Birgit Beumers © 2012

antipodesVictor Kossakovsky’s documentary ¡Vivan Las Antipodas! (Long Live the Antipodes) screened as opening film in the Orizzonti section at the 68th Venice International Film Festival and later in the year enjoyed great success at Mar del Plata. In the prologue, Kossakovsky identifies both his motivation and the geography of his film: quoting Lewis Carroll from Alice in Wonderland (“I wonder if I shall fall right THROUGH the earth! How funny it will seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downward!”), he suggests we may look for contradictions, but he also signals the use of the mirror as a surface that reflects and allows access into the inner, hidden world, not unlike in Tarkovsky’s oeuvre. And he gives us a simple map with the four axes we are going to be introduced to—four only, as most other places have their antipodes in the oceans.

antipodesOur first antipode is Entre Rios in Argentina and Shanghai. Here the difference could not be greater: as the Perez Brothers try to make a living by collecting money when the occasional car uses their hand-made bridge across a small river, the camera flips upside down before showing the construction of a gigantic bridge and some ferry operations in a rainy and murky Shanghai. The pace of life, the color of the sky, the level of civilization—in all these aspects the difference between the locations could not be greater. Yet again and again Kossakovsky merges the two antipodes in one frame, using the dividing line as a mirror and flipping one world upside down, as if it were a reflection, only shifted in time (and progress) along the axis.

With the other antipodes the contrasts are much less sharp, and often images from one half of the globe appear to form “sympathies” rather than antipathies, visually and musically (musical arrangements by Aleksandr Popov): Lake Baikal and Patagonia (Chile) share similar mountainous landscapes. The flight of an eagle is observed, allowing the camera to capture amazing shots of the area. Here there are women working the garden, there is a shepherd in his house playing with numerous cats, who could equally belong to the Siberian countryside. Russian folk song accompanies the Chilean’s herd.

antipodesThe African Kubu in Botswana sits opposite Hawaii. The desert with its animal life sits on the other side of an island almost made uninhabitable by volcano eruptions, as lava flows, bulges, and burns out on its way into the sea.

The final axis spans from Miraflores in Spain, with its almost untouched rocky nature, to Castle Point, New Zealand, where the crew happened to shoot a whale washed onto the beach and watched the locals struggle to bury it in the sand.

Life only seemingly differs: what all these antipodes (except Shanghai) have in common is their remoteness from all civilization. And in that almost archaic form they share a nature—majestic and powerful, threatening and cruel, while people try to live in harmony with it. One could say Kossakovsky’s film is an ode to nature; and it is an amazingly beautifully shot film, which tells us something about similarities, where antipodes become just flipsides of the same coin. 

Birgit Beumers
University of Bristol

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¡Vivan Las Antipodas!, Germany, Netherlands, Argentina, Chile, 2011
Color, 108 minutes
Director, DoP, Screenplay, Editing: Victor Kossakovsky
Music: Aleksandr Popov
Production: Filmproduktion
Producer: Heino Deckert

Victor Kossakovsky: ¡Vivan Las Antipodas! (2011)

reviewed by Birgit Beumers © 2012

Updated: 14 Jan 12