Dogs bark, crows caw and invisible flies buzz angrily as an air of tension fills a motionless scene. Suddenly, a train races toward the screen and whizzes by just to the left, but the camera remains tenaciously pointed at its screeching wheels. Though the roar of the engine fades, the sounds of nature still call out in warning. In just the opening sequence, Camino al cementerio ("The way to the cemetery") already promises foul play.
The new short film by Calle Producciones opened March 26 at Centro Experimental Perrera Arte to an enthusiastic crowd. Perrera Arte, a former dog pound with high ceilings and ominous iron cages, provided the perfect atmosphere for the premiere. To further set the scene, vivid images from Calle’s former flicks splashed against the wall: possessed women with demonic eyes, colorful vegetables juxtaposed with bags of severed pigs’ heads, graphic sexual images and, in jarring contrast, bright, open landscapes.
Photo by Christina Cavey
After a few hours of expectant chatter and a viewing of an older short film entitled No hables ("Don’t speak"), the feature presentation, starring a rogue car wanted dead or alive and the two men who stumble across it, left the audience seesawing between laughter and shock. The two wandering men of ambiguous appearance seem to be the closest things to protagonists, though by the end of the film we still don’t know whether to sympathize with them or not.
Following the opening train sequence, a series of barren landscapes and Tarantino-esque melodies culminate in a lengthy duel between man and car. In order to counter the evil deeds of the violent and irrational car, one of the men must repeatedly kill other living beings. Each clash further confuses the line between hero and enemy. But one thing’s for sure in Camino: Every action, no matter whose, ends in bloodshed.
Blood spills, splashes and squirts across the screen. Even in the most violent moments, though, a comedic element always shines through -- whether it’s a man in a wife-beater babbling incomprehensibly about his dead cat or the bewildered look on the protagonist’s face after he has killed again. The film revels in blood and death and ends without defining good and evil. But rather than depressing the audience, it seems to suggest that life is a series of unexpected conflicts and that the best must be made of the absurdities at hand.
Mijael Milies and Carla Pastén, Photo by Christina Cavey
Director Mijael Milies and Carla Pastén, producer and still photographer, who have been heading the production company since 2008, are excited to share their work with the public. “Basically, what we want to show are fantastic stories that are related to fear, pain, violence, blood and black humor,” Milies told Revolver. “We want the spectators to have a different experience watching our work, to question what they see, to question themselves and, of course, to have fun.”
Unfortunately, Milies says, the current state of Chile’s film industry makes it difficult for him to reach his desired audience. Although there are many resources available in general, he says independent films don’t get enough funding because they’re seen as risky business. This film, Pastén adds, was made on a shoestring budget by crew members generous enough to volunteer their time.
Photo courtesy Camino al cementerio
Milies suggests that government budgeting could be more effective if funds were divided equally among the different film genres instead of having every film compete with one another. Milies criticizes what he calls the narrow spectrum of creativity found in films funded by today’s system. After all, “Not all of us like to tell traditional stories that talk about everyday situations,” he said.
And there’s nothing traditional or everyday about Camino al cementerio, which depicts an evil car that attacks seemingly innocent bystanders. In the final shot the two men face off against the car, but it’s never clear how it all ends. That seems to be the parting theme of the film: It hits us in the face with blood and guts alongside an absurd narrative, and leaves us to form our own conclusion.