A Poetic of Beauty: Nature, Memory and Resilience in El Botón de Nacar/The Pearl Button (2015)

María del Pilar Melgarejo


One of the pillars of the history of Latin American documentary filmmaking is undoubtedly the Chilean director Patricio Guzmán. During more than five decades of film production, he has given an account of Chile's political history, specifically dealing with the meaning of the Chilean dictatorship for the country's past, present and future, as well as its relevance in the Latin American context. His films undoubtedly represent one of the most relevant testimonies to the continent's history in the 20th century, with hundreds of hours of footage of the high points in the violent transition process between the Allende and Pinochet governments. His film proposal will take a radical turn in his last two productions: Nostalgia de la Luz ([2010] 2011) and El Botón de Nácar (2015), which are part of a trilogy - the latter film is currently in production. Its aesthetic proposal is revolutionary in the sense that it resignifies the relationship between memory and history by establishing a connection between nature, cosmology and historical memory. In this trilogy he deals separately in each film with the desert, the sea and the mountain, leading the viewer to a reflection that, through poetic language and a meditative tone, proposes a new look at history and memory. In this essay I analyze three elements that define his film El Botón de Nacar and that open the possibilities for a new type of theoretical reflection on the documentary genre: the relationship between nature, narration and history, history understood as genealogical memory and the new type of visual aesthetic that the director is proposing, which I call "poetry of beauty". 


Memory; Chile; Documentary; Dictatorship; Latin American Cinema; Nature

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/ct/2020.421


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