About the Module Teaching Programme Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Violent Visions • Peripheries of Globalization Mexican Urban Cinema Colombian Urban Cinema Holograms and Simulacra

 

Peripheries of Globalization: Fredric Jameson’s The Seeds of Time and Víctor Gaviria’s The Rose Seller (La vendedora de rosas) Geoffrey Kantaris
University of Cambridge
February 2001
Includes video clips

 

Mónica (Lady Tabares) in La vendedora de rosas

Paper given to the Peterhouse Theory Group
University of Cambridge, Tuesday 13th February 2001

 
An undergraduate lecture based on this paper is available at: www.mml.cam.ac.uk/Spanish/SP12/cine/vendedora/ .

 
For a lengthier article of mine on Colombian cinema, please see: www.cus.cam.ac.uk/~egk10/EIAL/kantaris.html .

1. Globalization

1.1 About

I realize that I am addressing above all a theory group rather than a group of Latin Americanists, and that most people here will be more interested in, or at the least more familiar with, the theoretical side of what I am going to say than with the specific Colombian film that I shall be looking at. So I shall try to emphasize wherever possible a kind of dual reading of the film and the theoretical text I have chosen, but I have to warn you that I am not so interested in the kinds of reading of cultural phenomena which use them as an excuse to exemplify, a priori, a theoretical approach. Which is not to say that I am not interested in theory, rather that I take theory, in many way philosophy's postmodern cousin, to be one more cultural phenomenon, a marshalling of signifying practices, rather than a distinct metalanguage. If I appear to be prioritizing theory here, it is because of the nature of the forum rather than because I find this to be a comfortable way of working.

I shall be showing a number of clips from La vendedora de rosas, "The Rose Seller", made by Víctor Gaviria in conjunction with its natural actors who are adolescents living on the streets of Medellín, Colombia's second city. An English subtitled version of this film has not been released, but I have chosen sequences without dialogue or where the dialogue is not vital to the comprehension of the situation. In fact I shall begin now with a self-explanatory clip which is from the beginning of the film, as a way of setting the tone of the film for you, and in particular its emphatic representation of urban space which, as I shall argue later on, provides a grid for the painful recovery of a lost temporal consciousness.

Apart from the general mode of representation of urban space, things that I'd like you to look out for in these two (joined) clips are in particular the conjunction of imagery of water and fire especially in the visionary sequence -- as I shall be arguing that these images signal temporal traces within the film's spatial grid -- together with the enforced commodification of discourses of romantic love in the discothèque sequence. The film begins with two extended tracking shots along the river, shots which plunge us straight into the particular and subtle intersection of spatial and temporal dimensions in La vendedora de rosas, since the shots conflate the temporal flow of filmic images with the flow of the river across and through urban space, coming finally to rest on a night-time suburban scene. Then, through an extraordinarily sustained panning shot which sweeps across the house-fronts and tilts down onto an open window frame (as we hear a domestic argument taking place on the audio track), we see Andrea, one of the film's young protagonists, emerge from the window after being beaten by her mother for damaging a tape recorder and run away from home through a baroque night-time cityscape. We are then introduced to a different girl, Mónica, the film's main protagonist, via a close-up tracking shot of her shoe-clad feet, as she goes in search of her little bottle of glue to sniff. I then make a cut to one of her solvent-induced visions, of her dead grandmother, and this is the visionary sequence I refer to. There follows a small amount of dialogue as one of her friends, Judy, turns up and tells her to stop sniffing glue and to go with her to sell roses in one of the night clubs. Judy distracts the security guard by telling him that a young woman fancies him, while the other girls get into the nightclub to sell roses. Needless to say the words sung by the female singer who enthrals Mónica are to do with love and the search for the perfect man. 

 

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1.2 Conundrum

Fredric Jameson ends his 1994 exploration of the unrepresentable exterior of our postmodern condition, entitled The Seeds of Time, with the conundrum "Is global Difference the same today as global Identity?" (Jameson, 1994, 205).

This apparent opposition of Difference and Identity is only one, albeit a fundamental one, of a series of antinomies, or apparently incompatible oppositions that turn out to be equivalences, which, he argues, seem to paralyze our ability to think beyond the internal non-dynamics of our historical moment. In our postmodern condition, Identity -- sameness, homogenization, standardization -- can flip over into Difference -- plurality, heterogeneity, customization -- at the merest flick of some free-market switch, so that, as he puts it, "the most standardized and uniform social reality in history, by the [...] most imperceptible of displacements, [can] re-emerge as the rich oil-smear sheen of absolute diversity and of the most unimaginable and unclassifiable forms of human freedom" (32).

Examples of similar antinomies with which we will all be familiar in some form or another are those of time versus space, heterogeneity versus homogeneity, anti-essentialist constructivism versus the ecological revival of Nature, and Utopian social thought versus free-market economics. If some of these antinomies seem at first sight to be non-problems -- and it should be emphasized from the outset that an antinomy, unlike a contradiction, is characterized by the non-productivity and undialectical nature of its opposition -- then it may be worth asking ourselves, as Jameson does, how it is that "it seems to be easier for us today to imagine the thoroughgoing deterioration of the earth and of nature than the breakdown of late capitalism" (xii).

 

1.3 Definitions

With reference to the title of my talk, "Peripheries of Globalization", I want to make clear from the very outset precisely how I intend to deploy the term "globalization" within my argument. In particular, globalization is not here merely the domain of the multinationals or of "free-market" ideology, or of the McLuhanite rhetoric of the "global village".

As is now well known, and this is not really an antinomy but the inevitable corollary albeit disavowed of global marketing as such, globalization is also and more fundamentally about globalized crime, globalized unemployment, about the destabilization of local economies through decisions taken elsewhere and in the interests of others, about the accentuation of indebtedness and the production of inequality on a vaster scale than has probably ever been the case in the history of humanity. This negativity of globalization has been extensively studied by the likes of Manuel Castells, most recently in his trilogy on The Information Age (Castells, 1996; Castells, 1997; Castells, 1998), particularly in Volume 2, End of Millennium, which discusses what he calls the "black holes" of the global information economy.

The way in which I use the term "globalization" implies, then, no facile celebration of free markets or of a bland multiculturalism. Yet neither does it imply a fundamentalist opposition to globalization in the name of some residual localism, nationalism, regionalism, specificity, traditionalism, or some other foundational identity politics, about which one can only really affirm that they come into existence simultaneously with, and largely constituted by, the forms of "disembedding" that they seek to oppose, existing, therefore, only in opposition (these are by and large the arguments of the Brazilian theorist Renato Ortiz (Ortiz, 1996 rpt 1998), and of course of our own Anthony Giddens (Giddens, 1991)).

Rather, my use of the term globalization is part of my desire, from within cultural studies, to engage with a now inescapable dimension of all cultural activity, while simultaneously implying the profound need and the intellectual responsibility to think the global dimension of our acts, and even of our thought. It means, for example, the need constantly to call into question the apparent autonomy of institutional spaces, such as this one, and cultural spaces more generally whether marginal or hegemonic. It means the scandal that the most local of acts and thoughts might be profoundly linked to an "elsewhere" in ways which we cannot easily intuit, but which we must attempt to intuit in that fleeting gap between "the blood guilt of our own positioning and class situation" (Jameson, 1994, 77) and the almost inevitable rationalization of that guilt frozen under the forms of ideology. It also means, as I hope to show, that the death of a Colombian rose-seller in the absurd violence of Medellín is somehow also our death and our responsibility.

 

2. Peripheries

2.1 Centre / Periphery?

But now to the other term of my title, "peripheries". The peripheries in question are not so much geographically remote -- as in the kind of regionalism that fantasizes a whole culturally coherent zone in opposition to a "central", metropolitan culture, or where a local specificity, say, that of the Andes, or of Colombia, is used as an intellectual prosthesis for a now defunct nationalism together with its baggage of cultural authenticity. Such binary models of centre and periphery, aiming to valorize cultural difference, can indeed have a certain strategic value as modes of resistance to a standardizing world system, although more often than not, being predicated on artificial and indeed élite notions of cultural autonomy, they are in themselves a compensatory ideology, and, paradoxically, represent, as Jameson argues, "a specifically postmodern form of reterritorialization" (148). In any case, such oppositions are not here of primary interest, being of little use or relevance in explaining the cultural determinants of a country such as Colombia, caught in the rather violent clutches of a genuinely global late capitalism.

As an aside, I should mention that there is an entirely different vein of thinking on Latin America as periphery, derived ultimately from Borges, which has little truck with compensatory fictions of cultural autonomy, and I think here of the work of the Argentine theorist Beatriz Sarlo, whose book on Peripherical Modernity is now something of a classic (Sarlo, 1987).

 

2.2 Social peripheries

 

The peripheries that interest me here are, instead, social peripheries: lives lived out in the interstices of a global system, rendered virtually invisible by its processes, but living cheek-by-jowl with aggressive displays of locally concentrated wealth which is more often than not at the service of either global corporate might or that other trade which ties Colombia into the most variegated circuits of global capitalism: the drugs trade. Such contrasts may be more intensified on the streets of Medellín, Colombia's second city, than on those of New York or London, but one of the consequence of postmodernity is that, as Jameson puts it, "what used to be characterized as the Third World has entered the interstices of the First one, as the latter also demodernizes and deindustrializes" (20). It is worth bearing this very firmly in mind, as part of an effort to avoid any cultural ethnocentrism that would set apart "them" and "us" as we approach the cinematic representation of these lives. Indeed this has been the main point I have tried to emphasize in the first part of my talk so far.

 

3. Vendedora de rosas

 

Fire and water: Mónica's first vision

I shall now give a brief overview of the film.

 

3.1 Seeds of time

La vendedora de rosas, "The Rose Seller" of 1998 (Gaviria, 1998), is the second feature-length film made by the Colombian poet and film-maker, Víctor Gaviria. His earlier film of 1988, Rodrigo D. No futuro, "Rodrigo D. No Future", whose title is an explicit homage to Vittorio de Sica's Italian neo-realist film Umberto D., explored the truncated lives of the teenage boys in Medellín’s working-class suburbs. A decade later, Gaviria’s glance turns backwards towards lost origins, to real and symbolic orphanhood, bearing silent witness to what Jameson, after Shakespeare, calls the broken "seeds of time".

"If you can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow and which will not."

 

3.2 The making of the film

More æstheticized than Rodrigo D., both in terms of narrative structure and filmic style, "The Rose Seller" was nevertheless made, like Rodrigo, in the only manner conceivable for it to maintain ethical integrity vis-à-vis its subjects: in full collaboration with its natural actors, adopting both their vision and their language -- their right to the fleeting permanence of film -- in a painstaking two-year period of investigation, twelve months of pre-production work, and a long sixteen-week shoot.

 

3.3 Setting

Set mostly over two nights, from the evening of the 23rd of December to its tragic dénouement at midnight on Christmas Eve, the story follows the fortunes of a group of girls in their early teens, all separated from their families and making a living for themselves in the rough, selling roses in late-night clubs, sometimes selling themselves, going out with the drug-vending teenage boys, stealing money to buy new clothes, and sniffing glue to fill the desperate emptiness with passing visions of lost family and friends. The protagonist, as we saw, is Mónica (acted by Lady Tabares and based on the life of one Mónica Rodríguez), an orphan who had been looked after by her old grandmother until she had died, leaving the young girl destitute.

 

3.4 Lighting

The film is largely shot in the twilight of Medellín’s night-time streets, lit up here and there with garish Christmas illuminations, the flare of celebratory fireworks, and the lights of passing traffic. Gaviria himself, using a poetic paradox, talks of the displaced light that bathed the production of this film: a nocturnal light that somehow made visible, for a few fleeting weeks, “los días de la noche” -- the night-time days or the day-time nights -- of Medellín’s street children and homeless youths. During the nocturnal shoots, he writes, with the streets bathed in the unaccustomed clarity of the set lights,

"the street children, I mean the actors and their friends, were thrilled to see their regular street corners lit up with the show lights as if it were the middle of the day, or rather lit with the true light of their night-time days, because people don’t realize that these street children live out just a handful of highly compressed days, of singular, eclipsed days, during their long nights on the streets. These are night-time days, whose secret light only they can see."

It is the form of this temporal paradox -- the compressed night-time days -- that I wish to try and outline in the remainder of this talk.

 

3.5 Fairy-tales and realism

In Hans Christian Andersen's children's story, "The Little Match Girl", when the protagonist is about to die barefoot on the night-time streets of Copenhagen on New Year's Eve, too afraid to go back to her poverty-stricken home, in one final attempt to keep herself warm and to keep alive the visions of her lost grandmother, she strikes all of the remaining matches she had to sell. "And the matches gave such a brilliant light," we are told, "that it was brighter than at noon-day".

If this description is in some ways reminiscent of Gaviria's "day-time nights" or "night-time days", this is because he describes "The Rose Seller" as a faithful adaptation, in realist style, of Andersen’s story (Montoya, 1997, 58-60), as well-known in Latin America as in Europe, and here transferred from the streets of nineteenth-century Copenhagen to those of twentieth-century Medellín.

Indeed, the adaptation, or translation, of Andersen’s highly compressed two-page story is remarkably close in this film. It extends right down to the details of lost, outsized shoes, abusive step-fathers, sparklers substituting for matches, the Christmas illuminations, and the protagonist’s intense memory and spiritual visions of her old grandmother, “the only person who had loved her, and who was now no more”. The only departures in matters of detail were the decision to set the dénouement of the film on Christmas Eve rather than New Year’s Eve, and to have the girl die as a victim of mishap and misfortune rather than of cold and abandonment.

Yet there is nothing coy about the adaptation in the film: the translation to the reality of Medellín is complete, with streetwise girls selling roses behind the backs of the security guards in the discos of the Carrera 70 and La Bolera district, drug-hawking and street-stabbings for money or for revenge, sexual rivalries and infidelities between the homeless adolescents, the ephemeral visions induced by constant glue-sniffing, the harassment of shanty-town dwelling under permanent threat of demolition by the authorities, and the break-up of families through (male) unemployment and high rates of homicide.

All of these details by far exceed the frame of Andersen’s original tale, so that despite Gaviria’s insistence on adaptation-cum-translation, the popular children’s story is also used in an inverse sense as a Proppian structuring device: an elemental and schematic structure that provides a link between the contingent, or local, and the prototypical, or universal. The youths themselves seemed to view their involvement in the making of the film in terms of a fundamental need to have their stories recognized, to make their invisible experiences count within a broader narrative framework:

"For the first time in their lives the children were going to be able to say who they were, something which they have a real need to do, because they are children who have very little recognition in the world. They are not recognized at all. So the film was a way for them to become complete people, in the sense of being recognized." (Cortés, 1997, 6)

Moreover, Gaviria interprets the filmic representation of the girls’ and boys’ truncated lives within the specific frame of the traditional folk-tale, finding the trace of fallen heroines and heroes in the youths’ self-annihilating conduct, a perverse rebelliousness performed within the ‘fallen’ genres of irony and self-deprecating humour. The well-nigh universal need to translate the contingent into the durable seems, then, to affect equally the film’s æsthetic and ethical positions vis-à-vis the representation of its ‘unrepresentable’ subjects:

"Behind the children of seventieth avenue, who play at non-existence as an exercise in humour and irony, there are -- if Propp’s ideas are correct -- a dozen childhood heroes who venture through the long illuminated night trying to slay a dragon. What is this dragon, I wonder? Perhaps the burnt-out time of these street children who have no place in the world." (Cortés, 17)

 

4. Time & Space

 

Before delving further into the film, I shall outline the intersection of Gaviria's thinking with Jameson's argument on one of his antinomies, which is perhaps the most important for the representation of the urban, namely the antinomy of time and space. As an epigraph to this section, and in some ways to the film itself, I cite Borges's famous conclusion to his New Refutation of Time:

"Our destiny [...] is not frightful by being unreal; it is frightful because it is irreversible and iron-clad. Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire." (Borges, 1972 (1947), 269, my emphasis)

 

4.1 Time and rate

Jameson argues that time can no longer be perceived as a depth formation, something that accrues slowly in great geological strata. It is now "a function of speed, and evidently perceptible only in terms of its rate, or velocity as such: as though the old Bergsonian opposition between measurement and life, clock time and lived time, had dropped out with [Valéry's] virtual eternity or slow permanence" (8). If time has now become velocity, the rate of change of fashion designs on the store front or its web page, or the rate of change of the locales in the shopping-mall, of the built environment itself, time thereby in a sense fizzles out in an instant, since velocity is a measure of a displacement over time, while the work of Paul Virilio shows "how the seeming speed of the outside world is itself a function of the demands of representation" -- in particular technological representation (he inevitably gives the Gulf War as an example) and the mass media.

This new, absolute temporality, which "has everything to do with the urban [...,] its postnaturality to technologies of communication as well as of production and [...] the decentered, well-nigh global, scale on which what used to be the city is deployed" (11), now presents us with a paradox, which is "the equivalence between an unparalleled rate of change on all the levels of social life and an unparalleled standardization of everything -- feelings along with consumer goods, language along with built space -- that would seem incompatible with just such mutability" (15).

Gaviria's own thinking on time is rather similar. In an article entitled "The Eye of Nobody", written in relation to his previous film Rodrigo D. he explains:

"Time has been paralysed in a consumable present, in the imminence of consumption. The present in which the product lives sealed in its empty packaging, which at any moment will be eaten, consumed, and then will become a piece of junk in the rubbish tip...
            The past and the future have been abolished. [...] In Medellín, No Future is strewn about everywhere." (
Gaviria, 1989).

A perfect example of the kind of retroparadoxes that emerge from this new global deployment of time dissolved into speed, and strewn about the streets of Medellín as Gaviria suggests, is to be found in "The Rose Seller". Note at the beginning of the clip a strange backward movement of Mónica, as if the clip were being run in reverse, signalling I think a temporal paradox. Judy, who is slightly older than the other girls, has taken to prostitution, and we see her here in a kind of speed-rush. Then, slumped in the front seat against the windscreen, staring up at the garish but beautiful Christmas lights that pass overhead, she negotiates sex with the boy who is driving the car for 15,000 pesos: "But you won't put it in, will you?", she says, "What will we do then?" asks the boy, "Just touch each other and suck my tits". Emptied of all emotion, reduced to commodity, she tries to fend off the inevitable, losing herself in rush of lights.

 

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4.2 Time has become space

Jameson concludes his discussion of time by arguing that, as a postmodern antinomy, it has dissolved into space in any case: "If it is so that postmodernity is characterized by some essential spatialization, then everything we have here been trying to work out in terms of temporality will necessarily have passed through a spatial matrix to come to expression in the first place. If time has in effect been reduced to the most punctual violence and minimal irrevocable change of an abstract death, then we can perhaps affirm that in the postmodern time has become space anyhow." (21)

 

4.3 Antinomy and contradiction

For Jameson, the postmodern collapse into antinomy is, at base, a weak apolitical version -- to be read, perhaps, as a symptom -- of the once productive but now unthinkable (Marxist) notion of contradiction (Seeds, 4). It is as if, in our age of “technocratic positivism”, we had all undergone some kind of collective lobotomy to separate the hemispheres of the brain, exscinding all conceptual dialogue between contradictory experiential modes. Such postmodern antinomies as homogeneity and heterogeneity seem to have lost their connecting logic or conceptual nexus, so that, as I mentioned earlier, all we can say is that our age promotes heterogeneity, proliferation of ‘lifestyles’, customization, yet at the same time is the most homogenized, self-identical, and standardized that history has ever known. It is almost inconceivable that there might be some productive dialectic at work in this antinomy, that its contradictory poles (if we can even conceive of them as contradictory) might constitute some motor of History.

 

4.4 History, memory, genealogy

Yet history, memory, genealogy -- tokens which seem to point to the existence of great submersed forms whose dimensions we can hardly intuit from the ripples they leave on the surface -- are precisely the focus of Gaviria’s visual practice, as if it were possible to illuminate these depth formations from below, reading off temporal depth from the spatial projections so produced. Engaging very precisely in a ‘contradictory’ attempt to represent those lives excluded from the globalized televisual gaze, Gaviria tentatively projects these shadows by re-introducing the mode -- and the power -- of negativity and contradiction.

We can see this at work in the following clip, which very clearly gives an urban spatial metaphor -- or atrocious reality rather than metaphor -- for temporal loss. After spending all night on the streets, Mónica has gone to her Aunt's house, from where she had run away after the death of her grandmother, and where the grandmother had once had her own little room, to find a pair of shoes that her grandmother had left her, since her own are worn out. She stares at the door that had once led to her grandmother's room, through which a strange light is filtering. She opens it to find that the room has been demolished. Her Aunt explains that some soldiers came to demolish the whole house and nearly managed to. This is the reality of life in the shanty towns around so many cities in Latin America. The ruins of the house become a potent spatial metaphor for temporal loss. We then see her with the outsized shoes, looking at some photographs, and dreaming. As she is abruptly woken from her dream, we come to understand one of the reasons why she had fled the house.

 

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5. Temporal ciphers

 

If time and memory in the film are continually thought through a spatialization that would appear to dissolve them, it is because Gaviria is trying to give shape to what is lost in that spatialization. And as I mentioned at the beginning, the principle symbolic grid through which temporality is worked out in the film is that of fire and water.

 

5.1 Watches

That this is so is heavily signalled in the film through the special status given to the watch – two watches in fact – at key turning points in the plot. The first appearance of this motif occurs when El Zarco, the ‘villain’ or antagonist of the film, shoots a man for having lied to him about drugs and money. In a well-rehearsed series of moves, El Zarco quickly frisks the dead man’s body for anything of value and hastily removes and pockets his watch, accompanied by sinister background music (0:18:43).  The second appearance of the motif occurs when Mónica, the protagonist, is given a children’s watch by a well-disposed drunkard in the street, for being able to tell him the time correctly (0:25:05). She rushes off to show the watch, which has drawings instead of numbers, to her friends, and tells them she is going to give it to her boyfriend Anderson as a Christmas present.

The watches are clearly meant to mark symbolically – and consciously for the spectator – the juxtaposition of the temporal flow of the diegesis (hence the category-concept Time) with the very categories which annihilate temporal depth and local time: exchange value and commodity production-consumption. El Zarco, encountering Mónica early the next morning, steals her watch from her and gives her in exchange the watch he had stolen from the dead man. Mónica is forced to accept this ‘exchange’, but later in turn exchanges the watch as part-payment for some fireworks she plans to set off at midnight on Christmas Eve. The store owner who illegally sells her the fireworks says he cannot give her much for the watch because it is the watch of a dead man (“reloj de mala muerte”, 1:23:35). El Zarco, meanwhile, planning to give his newly acquired watch to his nephew as a Christmas present, takes a shower while accidentally forgetting to take it off. Turning out to be a cheap trinket, the watch floods with water, the coloured drawings wash off the watch face, and the second-hand stops moving. El Zarco, generally suspected in the neighbourhood of having murdered the son of Doña Carmen, and on the run from friends and police, vows he will take his revenge. Seeing Mónica in the street later that day, he beats her up and demands his original stolen watch, which unfortunately Mónica has already sold. He gives her until eight o’clock that evening to get his watch back, threatening to kill her if she does not comply, a threat which we have no doubt he will carry out.

 

5.2 Time is the river Time is the fire

The reciprocal destinies of the two watches rejoin a carefully woven symbolic web of water and fire running throughout the film. One watch is drowned in water, cipher for a different kind of temporal flow to that measured on chronometers. This is the fluid, telluric time of the river Medellín (a tributary of the Cauca), part of whose course through the city is portrayed in the two extended tracking shots during the opening credits, around which the action circles incessantly, and on whose banks the dead body of El Zarco is discovered at the end of the film. The other watch is exchanged for fireworks, so that time is literally burnt up in a gratuitous but breathtaking blaze which becomes a cipher in the film for the intense, burnt-out lives of the street children themselves. Through these images, Gaviria impels us to ‘think’ the temporal paradoxes of postmodernity, forcing temporal consciousness gasping to the surface at the very moment of its spatial dissolution.

 

5.3 Examples

I only have time for a couple of quick examples. The first shows the police arriving on the streets for a routine drugs search. They don't find any drugs, because they've been hidden in a transistor radio, but they do find the bottle of solvent. One policeman smashes it to the ground and sets it alight, saying: "Look, this is what you're life is going to be like". The literalization of the metaphor of fire is quite shocking in view of the way in which it has been set up throughout the film.

The second clip shows Mónica crossing the river. Throughout the film, the river, and water in general, seems to evoke temporal density, the persistence of memory, genealogy, and locality, although it is also associated, as in Greek mythology, with another kind of permanence: that of death. This is signaled here by the background music, repeated throughout the film whenever the river is symbolically crossed. The genealogical time of the river is then juxtaposed, through montage, with the empty time of the commodity, as we subsequently see Mónica contemplating an absurd Father Christmas, turning her head to see a woman dragging her children along the street on a kind of go-cart. What price the hut of being?

 

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6. Conclusion

 

In the final sequence of the film, Mónica returns for the last time to the wreck of what had once been her grandmother's room, a liminal space which is both inside and out, both present (in past time) and absent (in the present), a node-like intersection of temporal and spatial ruin. Fulfilling her Andersenesque destiny, she lights sparkler after sparkler in a desperate attempt to recover lost time, in an effulgent burning up of time-as-identity. As her life is finally consumed in the vapours of the glue, and drained from her in a fatal stabbing by El Zarco, it is as if she herself is burnt up with the fireworks which riotously mark the arrival of Christmas.

Emerging from a powerful tradition of realism in Latin American cinema which both derives and departs from Italian neo-realism, Gaviria’s cinema responds with particular sensitivity to a new and unprecedented set of spatio-temporal disruptions. Its originality is not to be found in the theme of street children in Latin America (which stretches back cinematically at least to Buñuel’s Los olvidados of 1950), nor in the portrayal of the shocks and jolts of the alienating modern metropolis (a high modernist theme); rather, it is to be found in the particular treatment of the intersection of space and time in his cinema. This remarkable new gaze reads off each axis -- the temporal and the spatial -- in terms of its other, producing something akin to an echogram of the present. On the one hand it becomes possible to glimpse the spatial residues -- the scotomized bodies, the communal ruins -- left behind in the globalized race towards simultaneity and instantaneous turnover; on the other, in the midst of massive and violent restructurings of space which all but eliminate temporal difference, local time, and historical depth, Gaviria’s films bring forth, like sound-shadows beneath the skin of the present, the invisible seeds of time and memory.

 

7. Bibliography

 

Borges, Jorge Luis. "A New Refutation of Time". In Labyrinths. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1972 (1947). 252-70.

 

Castells, Manuel. The Rise of the Network Society. Vol. 1. 3 vols. The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Malden MA and Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.

 

Castells, Manuel. The Power of Identity. Vol. 2. 3 vols. The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Malden MA and Oxford: Blackwell, 1997.

 

Castells, Manuel. End of Millennium. Vol. 3. 3 vols. The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Malden MA and Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.

 

Cortés, Fernando. "Víctor Gaviria por Víctor Gaviria: entrevista". Revista número 6-8-99. Bogotá.

 

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© Geoffrey Kantaris, 2001

 

About the Module Teaching Programme Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Violent Visions • Peripheries of Globalization Mexican Urban Cinema Colombian Urban Cinema Holograms and Simulacra