“The grotto continues,” or the inner life | Documentary by Julián D’Angiolillo, at the Malba

“The grotto continues,” or the inner life | Documentary by Julián D’Angiolillo, at the Malba
“The grotto continues,” or the inner life | Documentary by Julián D’Angiolillo, at the Malba

The grotto continues 7 points

Argentina, 2023.

Direction, script and photography: Julian D’Angiolillo

Music: Nicolás Varchausky.

Interventions by Alberto Cotti, Andrea Gobetti, Giovanni Badino, Claudio De Filippo, Angel Graña.

Duration: 85 minutes.

Premiere: at Malba Cine, Incaa Gaumont and Cine Arte Cacodelphia.

It’s surprising, but the first thing you learn from The grotto continues (and you learn a lot of things in it) New documentary by Julian D’Angiolillo, produced by Lita Stantic) is that the earth is alive and breathing, almost like a human being. A simple demonstration by a group of men and women willing to dive into one of the many caves in a mountain in the Alpine region of Italy, on the border with Slovenia, is enough to discover that this mineral world – which one could imagine dry, barren, immutable – inhales and exhales like any living body does. And suddenly, magically, it is even capable of “letting out a sigh”, as if those insides were receiving as a relief the visit of some happy envoys from the outside world, who come to tickle them. “They are very sensitive,” says one of these underground explorers, without appealing to any irony.

The pleasure that the new film from the director of Become a fairground worker (2010) y Body of letter (2015) –two documentaries that emerged in the suburbs, which did not suggest this geographical turn in the work of its author- is in the nobility of its materialsIn those mountains that impassively guard the memory of time and in those men and women who love them and enter them with an affection and dedication that has nothing to do with tourist banality or sporting prowess. The characters of The grotto continues They are speleologists, driven by a thirst for knowledge and science, to discover those mysteries that are still hidden beneath a mountain range and its relationship with the outside world. Water, for example. “We are helping to save the world’s water,” says proudly a veteran speleologist from the Italian collective Grotta Continua, which gives the film its title.

The name of that group, in turn, has an almost subterranean history, too. It derives from Continuous Strugglean Italian political movement of the radicalised left in the late 1960s that fragmented in the following decade, but which left a mark on these researchers, not necessarily professionals, of different generations (there are some very young ones), who now seem to be looking for a sort of revolution literally inside, in the bowels of the world, as if – sadly, it must be said – it were already impossible to make it on the surface. “Your future is… underground,” reads a legend on the t-shirt of one of them, referring sarcastically to death, of course, but also, in a very serious way, to the life that beats there.

As if pulling Ariadne’s thread, the filmmaker suddenly opens a conduit to other caves, on the other side of the world. An ancient bronze plaque embedded in stone reads: “Che slept here”. In the manner of Alice in WonderlandAs if entering through one hole and leaving through another, the film suddenly reveals a new Cuba, far from the sun and the beaches, very dark and humid: the Cueva de los Portales in San Andrés, where Guevara and some of his most trusted revolutionaries took refuge in 1962 for almost a month, during the so-called “Missile Crisis”. They were supposed to be safe there from a possible nuclear conflagration. At the same time, some yellowed photos of the famous Cuban dancer Alicia Alonso, still very young, with a helmet and a flashlight, show that the lights of the stage were not her only passion. She also loved the deep darkness.

Through another channel, the film returns to its starting point in Italy, where the mountains reveal other secrets: their beautiful, strange sounds, deciphered by a computer (and represented and very discreetly amplified by Nicolas Varchausky’s soundtrack). Fire, too, nests in volcanoes like Etna. A veteran speleologist, in turn, refers again to the organic nature of what they explore: “In the Upanishad, it is said that mountains are the liver and lungs of the earth,” he says. There is life down there, he says with conviction, with insistence (sometimes too much). The grotto continues.

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