Los Versos del Olvido
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About this movie
At a crumbling cemetery in an unnamed Spanish-speaking country (actually Chile), an aged caretaker (the magnificent Spanish actor Juan Margallo) goes about his business even as a military dictatorship occupies his town and starts ‘disappearing’ local resistors. One day, he decides to take a stand of sorts by insisting on giving a proper burial to a murdered local. This bare-bones plot summary cannot even hint at the marvellously cinematic and deeply humanistic treatment that first-time Iranian director Alireza Khatami, who has worked with Asghar Farhadi, brings to bear on this moving tale. The words ‘magic realist’ are too-often used when describing films that stray from the traditional realist path, but they are very apt here. Whether it’s in a vision of a whale in the sky or an image of a giant stone hand buried in the desert, Khatami’s film builds a world that is both mesmerizing and affecting. It comes as no surprise to learn the film (known in English as Oblivion Verses) won four awards, including Best Screenplay, at the 2017 Venice Film Festival.
‘In this beautiful and strange first film… there are multiple explanations for each moment of dreamlike symbolism, and the peculiar and lovely thing is that almost all of them are equally satisfying… Khatami crossbreeds the humanism of his Iranian cinematic heritage… with a distinctly Latin magic realism, which infuses [the film] with an offbeat sense of humour… The lovely, sad Oblivion Verses [is] an immersive, evocative pleasure.’—Jessica Kiang, Variety