Window, The (2009)Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 08/11/09 18:30:19
(Worth A Look)
“The Window” is a gentle, quiet, sublime picture, a character portrait that’s sharply restrained and tightly constructed. I’m not the first to compare this film to the feel of a short story, as it’s the best way to explain the tone of the piece. Writer/director Carlos Sorin does not waste time with extraneous details; he sets out to present us with a day in the life of people who are memorable and colorful but not exaggerated, and he does it with a great sense of precision. 77 minutes is the perfect running time for this film. 78 would be overkill.As if equating memories with cinema, Sorin opens his film with grainy, black and white silent film footage of a fading recollection from the vaults - and ends his film with the same imagery, this time fading out, accompanied by the familiar flap of celluloid ending its run through the projector. The memories belong to an aging writer named Antonio (played by the Uruguayan writer Antonio Larreta), bedridden, tethered to an IV, living his remaining days in the bedroom of his lavish country estate. He’s expecting a visit from his son, a famed concert pianist who likely rarely stops by (and who, one can suppose, is making this his last visit).
The day that unfolds is rather uneventful, but there’s the beauty of the story. As the film steps back to consider each character, we’re drawn in to their world. There are long, often static shots that might overstay their welcome in another picture, but fit beautifully here, as we absorb the vast countryside landscapes and constrictive interiors. (Sorin and his cinematographer, Julián Apezteguia, create some gorgeous imagery in these moments.)
Antonio’s day includes a visit from his doctor, an old friend with whom he discusses literature; the arrival of a tuner hired to repair an upright piano in time for the son’s return; and an “escape” outside, where Antonio marvels in the lush Argentinean fields, if only for a while. Then the son arrives, old wine is shared, and the day ends on a note of soft grace.
I have just told you the entire story, and yet I have not revealed a single spoiler. For “The Window” works its magic in the corners of the barely-there plot, in its conversations and asides and discoveries. In one wordless scene, the tuner finds decades-old army figurines buried within the piano; he contemplates them, then places them aside, where they are later spotted by the son. Their explanation is never revealed, nor are the characters’ thoughts on them. Sorin is asking us to bring our own experiences and ideas into this tale. We can read such things as metaphors if we wish, or we can merely accept them as curiosities, then move on.
(Indeed, the symbolism here is rich but never forced or cheap. English majors can revel in the winking meanings behind such shots as Antonio rescuing a trapped housefly, sending him outside into freedom, but the audience is never required to study such moments to a point of aching pretension. Sorin’s elegance is in his restraint.)
When the son arrives, with his vain, cell phone-obsessed girlfriend in tow, the script begins to dance around too-familiar character types. Yet Sorin manages to back away from caricature; they may be obvious types, but they maintain a certain reality about them.Reality is Sorin’s game here - there’s not even a musical score, just sounds of the house and the field. This lends “The Window” an environment all its own, allowing us to savor the day as it stands, free from the usual cinematic enhancements. By the time we return to Antonio’s memory-as-silent film, we’ve discovered that from just a single day, we know so much about a man and his world.
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