El esplendor y la espera / Fernando Rodríguez

The Splendor and the Waiting

Luis Alejandro Rodríguez has made a 35-minute documentary about the poet Armando Rojas Guardia, El esplendor y la espera (Consejo Nacional de la Cultura, 2005), which premièred recently at the Cinemateca and which I've had access to on a DVD my friend, the poet, gave me. I don't know where it might be purchased and I underline this statement because it would be sad if this film were not distributed widely, at least through book stores, video stores and the like (in any case, the CONAC would be able to inform you).

I'll start where we tend to finish, with the "buts."

This biographical document is flawed by certain excesses: an overabundance of illustrative, sometimes strident, obvious or reiterative images; of mannerist interventions with some images and musical overloads at certain moments. Full stop.

But truly, to me the film seems to be thematically and stylistically daring and is full of discoveries that reflect talent and a passionate and complete desire to arrive at the essence of a particularly dramatic figure.

The biographical genre is flourishing in this country, in consonance with the rest of the planet, and not just with films. We can already point to various recent works, in writing and in film. But generally, the vast majority are superficial and apologetic profiles that provide nothing more beyond an occasional glimpse. For example—let's stick to the audiovisual—Globovisión's bureaucratic Biografías, at least the ones I've watched, that seem like pieces for the family genealogical tree, for business advertisements, or for the album of famous ancestral politicians.

These invariably follow the most basic scheme of a few archival images, formal and laudatory interviews and an off-stage voice full of hyperbolic adjectives.

The merit of this documentary is that it's not an exterior and diccionary-like profile. Instead, we have Rojas Guardia present in body and soul, in other words, we're on a clearly biographical plane, amid the waters of life. Rojas Guardia, of course, the poet—an enormous poet, as we already know, our great mystic of the storm—; with his peculiar and profound and dilemma-centered manner of having a dialogue with God; his assumed and ennobled homosexuality; his painful and chronic psychic illness which, as he himself says, is a sharp pain but also a season in the hell from where one can make abysmal contacts with lucidity and eternity's paths; finally, the Armando who doesn't separate his search for that absolute Other of generosity and solidarity from the others who share this mysterious and opaque valley of splendour and waiting, of Pascalian waiting for the ultimate and decisive encounter. This final point, for myself, who have chosen other metaphysical paths, and who expect nothing, is what, among other things, makes him so humanly dear to me.

And beyond the camera that lovingly follows him, that centers and scrutinizes him, that makes him be so much himself, Armando's discourse, not just his poems, is of an inimitable majesty. He doesn't act, he doesn't fear the eye that watches him. With a seriousness that comes in simple, sparse and dense words from his most hidden spiritual dwellings, he recounts for us half a dozen essential scenes from his life that summarize it all: his father and the unforgettable Christmas gift as a child, the birth of his poetry, his first devastating love, his denial of Peter, his reencounter with the poem-prayer, his hospital experience, his fraternal solitude.

This film is not a random element among his prolific body of work. It is an integral part of it and is a necessary piece for so many who not only read him but follow him, a twenty-first century evangelist. I hope they don't shelve it.

{ Fernando Rodríguez, TalCual, 11 July 2005 }

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