In Paraguay, Time Melts in the Torpid Air

Georgina Genes in the film “Paraguayan Hammock.”

New York Times
Published: May 14, 2008

If the quality of a nation’s moviemaking trumps its quantity of production, Paraguay may possess one of the most vital cinemas in the world on the basis of a single film. That “Paraguayan Hammock” happens to be one of the few features to emerge from the country in recent decades in no way diminishes its rarity.

The filmmaker Paz Encina does wondrous things in an overly familiar style of international art-house formalism: long, fixed takes of carefully arranged scenes; the meticulous orchestration of environmental noises; an oblique handling of character and continuity.

In the opening shot two elderly peasants (Ramón Del Rio and Georgina Genes) materialize from a thick green forest, suspend a length of fabric between trees and settle down to contemplate the weather (oppressive, thundering), the yelping of a nearby dog and the fate of its absent master, their son, a soldier off at war.

Everything is elsewhere in “Paraguayan Hammock,” and as Ms. Encina proceeds from one lucid tableau to another (hearth, harvest, laundry, lunch), she hints at rich temporal ambiguities. Categories melt in the torpid air. Present blurs with past, life shades to death, and things unseen haunt the melancholy shadows, delicately cast, in this entrancing Paraguayan clearing.

Written (in Guaraní, with English subtitles) and directed by Paz Encina; director of photography, Willi Behnisch; edited by Miguel Sverdfinger; music by Óscar Cardozo Ocampo; art director, Carlos Spatuzza; produced by Isle Hughan, Gabriella Sabaté and Marianne Slot. Running time: 2 hours 38 minutes. This film is not rated.
WITH: Ramón Del Rio (Ramón) and Georgina Genes (Candida).



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