Watching the Past

Part 1

Part 2

The Independent has a review of Patricio Guzmán’s splendid Nostalgia for the Light (2010), so I won’t add much.

As we watch the sky, we see the past. There is, the astronomer says, no present, just the past – contrary to what others say that there is only the present and nothing else.

The astronomer; the archeologist; the survivor of prison camps; the relatives, looking for traces of the bodies of their loved ones; the surviving child of imprisoned parents – they tackle with a past that is present only in remnants. In fact, the past consists of these leftovers. And in knowing that these are residues, leftovers, incomplete broken pieces, we know they are the past in the present.

Memory and remembrance, keeping the incompleteness amenable and alive. When things are complete, they may be eternal, they may be everywhere. But in their incompleteness things point to their having stories and fates. We need the blindness to see at all; and we need the broken things to understand the completeness.


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