Grave of the fireflies

y Álvaro André Zeini Cruz

The choice of the plural form in the title of Beatriz Seigner’s film is not random; the silences that compose the work are disparate and diverse. As for the sound, speech and music contract to favor the night’s noises, the insects above all. In the acting, a spatial silent is caused by the isolation of the island where the story takes places, as well as the sporadic flooding of the stilt houses, dissolving part of the architecture and bodies. In the narrative, there is the silence of the authorities before the armed conflicts around the tri-frontier region between Brazil, Colombia and Peru. There is also Nuria’s paradoxical silence, given that even when quiet, she is an imagetic thunder.

Nuria arrives on the island with her mother, Amparo (Marleyda Soto), and her younger brother, Fabio. Once there, they reunite with the father, Adão (Enrique Diaz). But not everything is what it seems to be, something that the film shrewdly reveals. The girl is the center of these silences, starting by the influence she has on the camera and angles. Núria stares at the world around her for a long time, and this world seems to stare back at her at the same rhythm. Thus, the frame, as a temporal unit, is silent because the cuts are economic and precise. The same applies to the notion of space, as in avoiding motion sliders, the eyes will not look around; they are fixed and waiting the unfolding of the world, be it physical or metaphysical.

It is on this record that the silences are tested. Nuria, in a given scene, rips the poorly illuminated night. The girls puts on fluorescent sneakers, a spark in the dark. In a following scene about griefs and struggles, the costumes glow for the film’s climax. Finally, the props and indigenous painting sparkle in a ceremony on the water. Seigner’s choices to compose this spiritual world evoke distant filmographies, such as the ones of Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Kiyoshi Kurosawa. But this contrast of gleaming bodies and dark spaces evokes another title, also about childhood, war and death: Isao Takahata’s Grave of the fireflies (1988). This is what the film is about: luminous corpuscles that glow and buzz against the silent darkness that, historically, surrounds the Latin America’s poor.