Las Vidas Possibles- Review by Slate

By Slate Honey

Las Vidas Posibles (Possible Lives) is a beautiful, slow-moving film by Argentian director Sandra Gugliotta.  It follows Carla in her journey of loss and denial, as she searches for her disappeared husband, Luciano, in the breathtaking and desolate landscapes of Patagonia.  The morning after his birthday party, Luciano takes off from their apartment quietly and with an air of regret.  Carla wakes up suddenly just as the door of the elevator slams shut, shocked by an intuitive sense of knowing something is wrong.  Days pass and Carla becomes increasingly frantic over Luciano’s absence and her unanswered calls to his cell phone.  She decides to take matters into her own hands after being met with skepticism from the police about beginning a search for him.  Carla drives to the south where Luciano regularly travels for work as a geologist.  In a sleepy coastal town, Carla discovers a man named Luis who bears an eerie resemblance to Luciano.  Carla begins to follow Luis, slowly seducing him under false pretenses just as other evidence emerges about the truth of Luciano’s disappearance.

Director Sandra Gugliotta leaves all matters of interpretation in the viewers’ hands.  Things are unspoken, mood is everywhere thick in the film and and we have only the characters’ emotive expressions to piece together this mystery.  Perhaps Luciano has long lived a double life, sometimes as Carla’s husband in Buenos Aires and sometimes as Luis, husband to another woman in Patagonia.  Perhaps Luciano suffered some accident and lost his mind and memory, becoming Luis and forgetting Carla and his former life.  Perhaps the strange resemblance between the men is merely a coincidence that is convenient to Carla’s holding onto a delusion that will save her from facing Luciano’s death.  Whatever the interpretation, Las Vidas Posibles centers on the experience of loss, the silences and heart aches of disconnected intimacy, and those who wander through their own lives, quietly dreaming of other possibilities.

The extremely subtle messages of Gugliotta’s beautiful and mysterious film take a while to sink in.  Gugliotta favors complex emotional realities and psychological subjectivity to clear conclusions.  Las Vidas Posibles closes with an understated full circle.  At the beginning of the film, we see a man (Luis/Luciano) sanding the side of a large boat in the early morning fog.  He sits down for a moment bearing a look of deep sorrow, his eyes moist with tears.  We do not know this man, or the possibilities of what may be hurting him.  At the end of the film, we see the man again, raising the sail of his boat and drifting off to sea, pensive and stoic.  Even now, we still cannot clearly locate what inner turmoil burdens this man.  Gugliotta leaves us with an emotional question that is more important than possible answers:  Where is it that we go when we leave others in our silence?

Las Vidas Posibles is playing at the MoMA as part of Global Lens 2009 until January 30.

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