It takes a while for any sort of intention behind Esquí to materialise, and by then it’s realised that linear and lucid storytelling wasn’t the intention at all. This doesn’t mean that it’s inaccessible, but its experimental and adventurous approach to structure can take a moment to appreciate.
The film is a combination of scattered threads all related to the elation of skiing. It jumps back and forth between the real and the imagined, with the distinction being deliberately blurred as director Manque La Banca happily wrong-foots his audience. Some of the supposedly documentary footage is simply too bonkers to really be believed. And yet, at other times it reverts to being a fairly straightforward examination of those who live to ski, or make their living from it for no other reason than geographic convenience, since it’s the most logical way to earn money when living in the stunningly beautiful shadow of these Argentinian mountains.
And then there’s the appearance of a skiing ghost known as the Black Cape (whose red eyes light up the snow ahead of him), even though it’s suggested that many workers in the ski resorts of Argentina’s Punta Princesa seem to truly believe in the phantom – unless this is yet another instance of La Banca’s playful trickery. These moments are strategically hammy, and shows that the film has a healthy sense of its own potential for silliness.
The tonal leaps aren’t jarring, whether the film is showing the efficiently rudimentary way in which skis are locally manufactured, or an unnerving voice whispering all the horrendous things the nearby ghosts will do to a person if they should ever get their claws into them.
It can be argued that Esquí occasionally has a reach that exceeds its grasp. That being said, even when it isn’t entirely convincing, it’s never dull or ordinary.
Ski (Esquí) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.