Saturday, May 18, 2024

“THE HYPERBOREANS”

THE STORYIn the liminal space of a big studio, our only guide is a woman – by turns storyteller, actress, and illusionist – who interacts with Méliès-style cardboard sets and effigies, following in the footsteps of a very real man: the Chilean neo-Nazi dandy Miguel Serrano (1917-2009), a writer and the originator of delirious esoteric theories. Should he be viewed as a fascinating anomaly or symbolic of a deeper evil?

THE CASTAntonia Giesen & Francisco Visceral 

THE TEAMJoaquín Cociña, Cristóbal León (Directors/Writers) & Alejandra Moffat (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 62 Minutes


Delving into the gallows of Chilean mythology, the tale of the Imbunche lingers within the intergenerational awakening of the country’s comprehensive folklore. The nightmares grappled by an insomniac nation reckon with the tragedy of a kidnapped child. Black magic consumes the souls of the young, unbaptized, deformed, and dehumanized by the clutch of witchcraft. In the south of Santiago, the children metamorphose into an Imbunche — a brainwashed slave to their warlock masters. Their kidnapped autonomy is preserved by a greater authoritative presence, forced to comply with every inane action verbalized by their oppressor. Some may proclaim that the story of the Imbunche is merely a tall tale. However, in the bellows of history, the disturbing tale of the victimized youth eerily contrasts the country’s own record of forced disappearances. Akin to the original tale, there is a senselessness to the warlock’s violence. Questions arise from the wreckage of an authoritative dictatorship. A nation’s own myth evolves into an urgent declaration of resistance, iconography reclaimed by the people & the storytellers of its land.

In the latest cinematic incantation from Chilean wunderkinds Cristóbal León & Joaquin Cociña, the multidisciplinary artists reinstate their unfiltered & cutting-edge storytelling methods in their latest mind-bending feature. Within “The Hyperboreans,” the directorial duo invents their own mythology, reclaiming, recontextualizing, and even confronting the ethics and mythmaking behind the moving image. Whereas their previous feature, ‘The Wolf House (2018)’, prominently delved into the eerie mechanics of a disturbed fairy tale, Leon & Cocina deviate from the pre-established structure of their earlier works. Instead, “The Hyperboreans” works more eloquently as a genre-bending pot-pourie of Chilean descent. The grandiose theological concepts circulating the metatextual playground provide the film’s invigorating themes & conclusions. The Imbunche roams the wasteland of the soundstages, frequently referenced through Antonia Giesen’s committed performance. Voices of the dead take hold of the human consciousness of the land as Giesen’s self-referential caricatures shift through various masks indebted to her nation’s fetishized warmongers.

A fictional film evolves from the wreckage of a country’s mournful diaspora. In an attempt to capitalize on the sensationalism that permeated throughout the publications of right-wing fascist Miguel Serrano, “The Hyperboreans” aptly questions his unorthodox ideologies and social tolerances. In many ways, the vanguard structure purposefully collapses upon itself. Giesan interacts and recreates history with cardboard, paper-mache, and pixilation animation techniques. Puppets frequently replace the presence of a human host, as the eerie dub of non-diegetic voice actors guide the inanimate Doppelgängers. The sound design is also backed by the film’s themes of artifice & control. During a scene where Giesen answers a call inside a phone booth, the sound of passing cars is dubbed with a human performance.

More relevantly, the bi-product of the recreations intelligently questions the purpose of historical representation. When does an actor become complicit in the Fascist rewrite of history? Does cinematic recreation ultimately aid the education and teachings of Chile’s political past? Are directors culpable for the contribution of images that have idolized deceased war criminals? To reinforce the conflicting confrontations of the cinematic form, “The Hyperboreans” kidnaps the personas of the film’s own directorial duo. León & Cociña’s roles as directors are turned into an authoritative narrator. Their actions in recreating and contextualizing Chile’s history through the craft of cinema are aptly criticized in their mockish voice performances.

A heightened fictionalized plot regarding the capture of a lost film regarding Serrano’s literary oeuvre provides the film’s critical MacGuffin. León & Cociña frequently break the fourth wall, intervening, dictating, and enforcing Giesen’s live performance through an Orwellian veil. Her presence is continuously interrupted by a screen capture of a CCTV recording overlaid by the director’s commands. As the film progresses, the form becomes fascist — a micro-managing whirlpool in complete order of Giesen’s loss of autonomy. Cameras also evolve into weapons; an analog beta-max television camera blasts through the propaganda machine. From tape to television station, from wavelengths to television sets, the media we consume regarding our geo-political past are confronted by the deconstructed biases of tyrannical government censorship.

The opening image of “The Hyperboreans” perfectly represents the film’s thesis. We gaze at a television set broadcasting a hypnotic animated spiral. In a single cut, we’re transported into a land of black curtains, where Giesan introduces the viewer into a soundstage wonderland. The spectator becomes the participant in a communal brainwashing, entering a void conducted by the malleable hands of León & Cociña. For seventy minutes, the duo slips into the shoes of their country’s monsters. The story of the Imbunche and the titular hyperboreans exists merely in myth. But in the realm of cinema, our worst fears evolve into an allegory for racial supremacy. Beyond the caves where creatures typically convene, the Imbunche roams the streets of Santiago — in totalitaristic servitude to a right-wing cause.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Breaks the conventions of the cinematic form with delirious effect. Through puppets, recreations, and other hybrid material, León & Cociña have produced an otherworldly, and thought-provoking cultural artifact on Chile's nationalist history.

THE BAD - León & Cociña's rich cultural references might be inaccessible to foreigners unaware of Chile's right-wing past. A stronger presence of pixel animation would also have enhanced the audiovisual stimulation of the film's historical dissections.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Breaks the conventions of the cinematic form with delirious effect. Through puppets, recreations, and other hybrid material, León & Cociña have produced an otherworldly, and thought-provoking cultural artifact on Chile's nationalist history.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>León & Cociña's rich cultural references might be inaccessible to foreigners unaware of Chile's right-wing past. A stronger presence of pixel animation would also have enhanced the audiovisual stimulation of the film's historical dissections.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"THE HYPERBOREANS"