Oblivion

"OK"

Oblivion Review


In Oblivion, Heddy Honigmann's paean to defeat, the film's master of ceremonies, Jorge Kanashiro, a bartender in an upscale restaurant across the street from Peru's Presidential Palace in Lima, demonstrates mixing the ingredients for the Pisco Sour, the national cocktail of Peru. Some ice cubes, three ounces of Pisco, one ounce of corn syrup, an egg white according to taste. Shake vigorously. Kanashiro pours the cocktail into a frosty glass and serves it to the camera, philosophizing, "I see history as a badly mixed cocktail made of semi-democratic elections, coups, terrorism, and corruption, and it's always the same old story."

Honigmann profiles Kanshiro along with a waiter and waitress, a leather goods repairman, a presidential sash maker, a frog juice vendor, and a collection of street hawkers, jugglers, and a shoeshine boy, who all ply their trade in Lima around the Presidential Palace -- which a diner refers to as "an island of happiness surrounded by Peru." All are serving, if not the rich and elite of Lima, at least people with money to spend, and all smile obsequiously in order to perform their jobs. Kanashiro, in a pep talk to employees, explains the attitude of serving to the beaten-down Liman poor and oppressed: "Perfect acting. That's what service is all about."

Honigmann, ever emphatic, allows these people to state their cases and relate how lucky they all are, the attitude being that it could always be worse -- as the waiter remarks, "I quickly forget my problems. That's the only way to survive." After decades of horrific Peruvian governments -- Honigmann intersperses her Lima profiles with footage of the collection of corrupt Peruvian leaders (Garcia, Balaunde, Fujimori) taking their oaths of office -- the poor of Peru expect nothing and feel nothing. Even when Honigmann films them listening or singing their favorite songs, they are songs of despair and disappointment. And Honigmann with her camera soaks it all in.

Honigmann lets her people talk, and they speak in a dulled and repressed way, holding back their tears -- the waitress, abandoned by her husband, speaks of her love for her live-in mother; the waiter at home with his wife talks about not being able to afford to eat in the restaurant where he works and recalls how two of his cousins in his village were killed in the night (by police or special forces, he doesn't know and doesn't care); a mother talks of the death of her oldest daughter, who was hit by a car on the street as she performed cartwheels for change. And Honigmann, ever supportive of her subjects, lets them speak but then lets the conversation drop as if engaging in painful small talk.

Honigmann, sympathizing so much with her subjects, infects Oblivion with the same resigned failure and hopelessness as the people she is profiling. Honigmann doesn't seek out any of the politicians, any of the rich, any of the paying customers, so there is no sense of how things look from the other side and how they look at her subjects. Many of the subjects speak about leaving their villages for Lima and, although Honigmann follows several people home to their cinderblock slums, the problems in the villages that would bring these people to Lima are never explored, the questions never asked.

Oblivion as a film is like a coma -- the characters are as deadened as the director -- a tone poem of emptiness. When Honigmann interviews the shoeshine boy, she asks him if he has any nice memories. Staring ahead blankly, he tells her, "No," and the camera holds on his limp, lifeless expression. In much the same way, Oblivion is glazed, bleak, and lifeless.

Aka El Olvido.

Nice memories.



Oblivion

Facts and Figures

Run time: 124 mins

In Theaters: Friday 19th April 2013

Box Office USA: $89.0M

Box Office Worldwide: $286.2M

Budget: $120M

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Production compaines: Universal Pictures, Relativity Media, Monolith Pictures (III), Chernin Entertainment, Radical Studios

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 54%
Fresh: 122 Rotten: 105

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Heddy Honigmann

Producer: Carmen Cobos

Starring: as Jack, as Beech, as Julia, as Victoria, as Sykes, as Sally, as Kara, Abigail Lowe as Julia's Child, Isabelle Lowe as Julia's Child, David Madison as Grow Hall Survivor, as NASA Ground Control, as Survivor, Joanne Bahris as Tourist, Andrew Breland as Survivor

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