Cine Las Americas 2012
By Don Simpson | April 27, 2012
Director: Cristián Jiménez
Writers: Cristián Jiménez, Alejandro Zambra (novel)
Starring: Gabriela Arancibia, Cristóbal Briceño, Julio Carrasco, Nathalia Galgani, Trinidad González, Ingrid Isensee, Paola Lattus, Hugo Medina, Diego Noguera, Alicia Rodríguez, Andrés Waas
Writer-director Cristian Jimenez’s cinematic adaptation of Alejandro Zambra’s 90 page novella Bonsái reflects upon Proust’s seven volume Remembrance of Things Past to track a doomed love affair between Julio (Diego Noguera) and Emilia (Nathalia Galgani); doomed because their fates are sealed from the start, when the audience is informed by the narrator that Emilia will die and Julio will remain alive and alone. Bonsái‘s nonlinear narrative structure jumps back and forth between flashbacks to Julio’s college years in Valdivia and eight years later as he struggles to become a novelist in Santiago.
Julio’s relationship with Emilia is built upon a blatant lie as he tells her that he’s read all seven volumes of Remembrance of Things Past — for all we know Emilia might be lying as well. Eight years later, Julio lies to his neighbor [with benefits] Blanca (Trinidad Gonzalez) about being hired to transcribe the handwritten manuscript of Gazmuri’s (Hugo Medina) — a famous Chilean author — upcoming novel. This lie forces Julio to become a novelist as he must hand write his own version of what he thinks Gazmuri’s novel should be based upon the vague pitch that he heard over lunch. Basically, Julio’s life is a contorted web of lies, or at least a fictional representations of his true life. (Being that the flashbacks to his time with Emilia are all part of Julio’s fake Gazmun novel, these scenes may or may not be accurate representations of his personal history.)
Bonsái playfully uses literature, music and plants to provide greater significance and meaning to scenes; the hints and metaphors provide the audience with more layers to consume, forming a hyper-contextual love story. Jimenez confidently juxtaposes those directorial flourishes with naturalistic representations of dialogue and sex, which hints at a certain kinship with Joe Swanberg. Blah, blah, blah… In conclusion, Bonsái is one of the smartest and most poetic films I have seen in 2012.