The Pearl Button
Patricio Guzmán’s The Pearl Button functions both as an account of Chilean history – told from the perspective of the “losers” – and a kind of guided meditation that explores the waters that border the country. The Pearl Button is undoubtedly a spiritual sequel to Guzmán’s previous film Nostalgia for the Light, which used the Atacama Desert as a centre piece for examining Chile’s past. What Nostalgia of the Light did for the desert, The Pearl Button does for the ocean.
This film is very similar to director Ron Fricke’s non-narrative documentary films Baraka and Samsara, in that it investigates the wonders of the world, accentuating stunning visuals, with little thought for narrative or story. The Pearl Button is a meditative piece that attempts to intimately weld Chilean history with the oceans of planet Earth – for the sea holds all the voices of Earth’s past, as is provocatively stated in the film.
Amongst the dazzling images of Chile’s massively indented coastline, numerous mountains, volcanoes and glaciers, Guzmán incorporates accounts and tales by the elders of different cultures from Chile’s ancient past, as well as early 20th-century photographs, which culminates in one of the most beautiful history lessons ever made.
However, the links between Chilean history and the waters surrounding the country do not seem adequately connected throughout – Guzmán fails to unify two different themes as well as he had intended. Two fantastic, but wildly disparate documentaries lay within the confines of one – and they need to be exhumed!
Guzmán’s five-year absence from the documentary scene has not at all impeded his ability to make a visually engaging piece, but The Pearl Button falls a little short of his previous work, narratively and thematically speaking. Though, it’s still a ridiculously relaxing and educational feature that highlights a largely ignored area of history.
The Pearl Button does not have a UK release date yet.
Watch the trailer for The Pearl Button here: