BERLINALE19 REVIEW: Breve historia del planeta verde [Brief Story From the Green Planet] [2019]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★


Rating: NR | Runtime: 75 minutes | Release Date: 2019 (Argentina)
Studio: Zentropa
Director(s): Santiago Loza
Writer(s): Santiago Loza

“Don’t be scared of what you’re about to see”

I have no idea what’s happening inside Santiago Loza‘s Breve historia del planeta verde [Brief Story from the Green Planet]. This quest on behalf of three outcast best friends since childhood to deliver an ailing alien to the place where one’s grandmother found it is disorienting and obtuse, but above all else beautiful. There are parallels running through every scene whether the sense of “other,” the desire to feel included and at-home, or the notion of embracing one’s origins no matter how hurtful the memories might prove. And somehow nobody seems shocked to find a little blue comatose creature sleeping within an ice cube-filled suitcase. It’s almost as though its presence provides them comfort instead, opening their minds to accept their faults, own their eccentricities, and find contrition.

This is an awakening, sojourn through the past, and living funeral all-in-one with the recently dumped Daniela (Paula Grinszpan) searching for meaning within an isolating world, her dance-crazed gay friend Pedro (Luis Sodá) freely expressing himself without the fear of bigoted recourse, and their trans disco sensation Tania (Romina Escobar) mourning the death of the woman who raised her in an open-minded and loving home that allowed her to find her true self. They will quite literally go to the ends of the earth and back for one another and I’m not so sure they don’t do exactly that while following a handwritten map to their extra-terrestrial ward’s point of contact. How else could they confront former oppressors, present protectors, and newly manifested pain upon a single path?

You could say it was destined that they join together for this adventure—that this alien came to Tania’s grandma as their guide towards happiness whether in this life or the next. It is the MacGuffin propelling them all forward and providing them with what they’ve yet to accept. Glimpses of abuse and murder arrive to show that this friendship transcends reality while a confrontation with a horde of torch-wielding strangers reveals the unfortunate truncation of time reaching its close. One life will be lost as another is born. Hate gets washed away in a moment of clarity once a face from the past recognizes the human cost of his anger. And forgiveness is found right alongside devotion as forever folds into the here and now.

It’s a poetic procession of emotionless interactions as though of an out-of-body experience. Everything is so matter-of-fact from the reactions of everyone seeing their first alien to the knowing comprehension of wrongdoing those who should be antagonists use to inexplicably become guides assisting Tania, Daniela, and Pedro along. The cuts get more and more abrupt with campfires, rivers, and figures painted in black and white appearing and disappearing as though parts of a fleeting dream. One site online says Loza’s goal was to give power to the weak and eternally forgotten in a tribute to the losers of this world who’re desperately in need of justice. So maybe a dream is exactly what’s here onscreen—a collective delusion supplying closure and genesis despite the growing nightmare of reality.

The imagery is unforgettable. I think about Tania and the alien connected by a glowing IV-tube, Mariana (Anabella Bacigalupo) nursing the little blue guy because she thought it hungry, and the unbridled gyrations of Pedro feeling the music inside an otherwise staid diner along the way. The piano score supplies an ethereal texture to grab hold of our attention in the silent moments and the actors a strangely determined ambition for the characters to complete their mission no matter what trials and tribulations arise. Does one flickered series of black and white horrors give us the skeleton key to unlock the rest? Maybe. But I’m not sure the whole isn’t better by existing in a state of the unknown. That way one interpretation can never negate another.

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