Article by Enrico Nicolosi
Translation by Alessia Licari
For his 8th feature-length film, La Práctica (“The practice”), Martín Rejtman leaves his beloved Argentina for neighbouring Chile. The main character, Gustavo (Esteban Bigliardi), goes through a journey that is similar to a spiritual retreat trying to reconnect with meditative yoga. Both the director and the main character – who is sort of an alter ego of his creator – will see their innovative dreams clash with reality. As it often happens in the Argentinian director’s films, whatever happens to the helpless characters doesn’t really have a substantial effect in their lives.
The story is a combination of recurring elements which contradict themselves but also appear to be perfectly balanced in the end: a narration that is constantly in motion; a dead-pan humor partially similar to the one of Jarmusch and Kaurismaki; a strict method of acting; and a neutral main character surrounded by constantly-changing secondary characters. This is permutative cinema, where situations obsessively repeat over and over again with just some minor changes. It so happens that some objects are passed down from one person to another until they go back to their original owner, or that some love relationships become so fluid that they end up losing their original meaning and that, in the end, the “Samadhi” – the eight, deepest and final limb identified in the Yoga Sutras – which Gustavo wants to reach desperately, is actually ineffective. In this last film, Rejtman seems to be more optimistic than in the beginning of his career. Whereas Rapado (“Shaved”, 1992) and Silvia Prieto (1999) were more melancholic – mainly because of a total rejection of the capitalist aspect present in our contemporary society – La Práctica is a bit more joyful because of the comic tone present in the film which is more evident than usual.
After the newfound consciousness of how futile the “game of life” actually is, Rejtman does not preach the apathy of nihilism, but instead tries to find new and unorthodox ways to fight Gustavo’s mild depression – in Shakti (Hero, 2019) the main character states that one should “confuse” depression instead of trying to beat it with traditional methods. The most efficient way is the annihilation of one’s individuality. The protagonist of Silvia Prieto choses to change her identity, freeing herself from her own name, while here Steffi decides to accept her amnesia and Gustavo, like a magician, finally disappears from the screen. Too bad he didn’t hide in a trapdoor but fell into a manhole.