Some critics — very few, fortunately — have referred to the cinematic works of Argentine Pablo César as “poetic auteur films,” as if that label would account for the ludicrousness and meaningless of a long series of features — nine full length films, to be exact — that give true auteur cinema a very bad name.
But for a change, general viewers have known better than that and so his outings flopped at the box office. And despite the fact that most critics have panned his movies and there isn’t an audience for them, César keeps making them and they get released. Beats me.
His new film Los dioses de agua, partly shot on location in Africa, is roughly divided in two parts: the first one takes place in Argentina, in Buenos Aires and the northern province of Formosa, whereas the second one transpires in Africa, in Angola and Ethiopia.
It’s the first co-production between Argentina and Angola, and most importantly, it’s arguably the worst Argentine film released in years.
Los dioses de agua (The Gods of Water) tries to tell the story of Hermes (Juan Palomino), an Argentine anthropologist and a wannabe theatre director, who embarks on a very personal endeavour (the keyword is “personal”) in order to gain access to essential knowledge about the origin of life on Earth and the creation of mankind by amphibious beings, that is to say aliens from somewhere in the whole wide universe (yes, just like it sounds). Said knowledge is to be found in the oral tradition of ancestral tribes like the Dogón and the Tchokwe.
So Hermes goes for an inner and outer journey (the key word is “journey”) where he’ll find more things than he had ever expected. And so will unfortunate viewers.
You will have such sights as: lots of typical Africans playing drums together, pretty and large waterfalls with luminous rainbows accompanied by religious canticles, lots of happy Africans dancing left and right, intriguing monoliths planted by aliens, and an assortment of tourist-worthy landscapes that make for a hallucinated travelogue — among other things.
Towards the end, expect not one, but two CGI mermaids (one male, one female) descending from the sky together with a CGI rounded spaceship that leaves Hermes speechless and in awe.
In the dialogue, there are verbal exchanges about religious synchronisms, the liberation of the Earth through some kind of resonances, the transgression of a jackal needed to start the awakening, and some DNA related stuff that’s hard to grasp. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
One more thing: in the part set in Buenos Aires, Boy Olmi plays a near moribund and wheelchair-bound Egyptologist who’s being cared for by a pretty black girl (presumably African) who sings soothing native songs to him as he holds a drink in his tired hands. He is the character who started the expedition long ago, so you can blame it all on him. To be fair, there’s one single minor achievement: the photography is technically correct.
No, Los dioses de agua is not meant to be a comedy of the absurd, or a hilarious parody, or a crazy exercise in style of any kind. Instead, it’s meant to be a mystical meditation on spirituality, ancestry, knowledge, and God knows what else. Go figure it out.
Los dioses de agua (Argentina, Angola, Ethiopia, 2014). Directed by Pablo César. Written by Pablo César and Liliana Nadal. With Juan Palomino, Charo Bogarin, Boy Olmi, Onésimo De Carvalho, Jovania Da Costa, Horacio Hosé Kilulo. Cinematography: Carlos Ferro. Editing: Liliana Nadal. Running time: 105 minutes.