There’s a sense of awe that comes from watching films that were shot over decades. The famed British Up documentary series followed the lives of fourteen children as they grew up, checking in on them every seven years for 56 years; indie auteur Richard Linklater’s fictional drama Boyhood drew its pathos from capturing the real passage of time of a boy’s coming-of-age, over a 12-year period.
Cinema’s relationship to time is contradictory: it’s an ephemeral and condensed, boxed-in experience, yet it can preserve split seconds for recurring longevity of playback. To see faces wrinkling and body forms changing impresses us not only with the unwavering dedication of the director but intensifies cinema’s sway over the domain of nostalgia. It can trap the past for the future, but not ward off mortality and the loss of naive idealism. Swedish documentarian Peter Torbiörnsson’s Ninosca is another such film.
Ninosca was born into a family of leftist Sandinista revolutionaries in Nicaragua’s rural mountains, and the film follows her into adulthood over 40 years. What begins as a fascinating snapshot of Nicaragua’s politically volatile ‘80s develops into an intimate depiction of the disintegration of Ninosca’s marriage and her struggle to financially support her children as she breaks from subjugation to violent machismo.
Torbiörnsson’s position as director is somewhat fluid. The tall, calm Scandanavian is in the frame a lot, interacting in important family dramas as a sounding board. He is part family friend (they greet him affectionately as «The Swede») but also hangs back as a detached observer, even voyeur. «I have become your witness,») he says in a voice-over addressed to Ninosca. Whether he ever remunerated her, as star of this saga, to assist her out of her extreme hardship, we are not privy to …
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