THE PEARL BUTTON (“El botón de nácar,” 2015, France / Spain / Chile / Switzerland)

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EL BOTÓN DE NÁCAR || 2015, France / Spain / Chile / Switzerland || Documentary || Directed by – Patricio Guzman / Produced by – Patricio Guzman / Produced by – Bruno Pettati, Adrien Oumahi, Jaume Roures, Renate Sachse / Music by – Hughes Maréchal, Miguel Miranda, José Miguel Tobar / Cinematography – Katell Djian / Editing by – Patricio Guzman, Emmanuelle Joly / Running time: 82 mins.

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“The Pearl Button (El botón de nácar)” by Patricio Guzman (2015, France / Spain / Chile / Switzerland)

The Pearl Button is a film that completely revolves around the element of water. Its starting point is the undeniable fact that humanity would simply not exist without it. This was the source of our very evolution, and it is an essential element of to our survival. But as the film progresses, it is also a source of deep thinking about human idenitity and history; musings about water being the things that makes all earthly things interconnected. And it even goes on to inspire theories about more mysterious and spiritual aspects on life, the origins of life, the meaning of life and so on.

It’s hard to categorize The Pearl Button by any conventional means. Because the film is mainly driven by director Patricio Guzman’s narration, that dictates its flow often in a collected stream of consciousness resembling way, it qualifies as an essay documentary. Yet, as a side note, even the very concept of the stream of consciousness originates from the free and collected motion of a stream, which therefore implies that the structure of the film too is reflective of the motion of water, a higher power even in this excercise overall. Still, even this narration is appropriately broken up by interventions by voices of scientists, historians, experts, artists, poets or members of a generation of tribes that still recall a time in which people lived in primordial ways. More specifically, the latter class of people is a result of the film and the director focusing on the country of Chile to support the many points it delves upon.

Chile is a country that is physically distinctively shaped by water. Guzman implies that water is also what links two pivotal moments and historical moments in the history of the country that shaped it; the age of colonialism and the dark years of the Pinochet regime. This is also where a gripping and fascinating investigative side of the documentary comes into play, with some surprising and rewarding outcomes that, without spoiling too much, are represented in the title of the film.

It is easy to fall into a trance like, thought provoking mood while watching The Pearl Button because every one of the synergy between narration and the striking beauty of the images that illustrate it on the screen. The evocative power of these images supporting the Guzman’s words strongly contributes to the effectiveness of the overall feature, thus intensifying the viewing experience, making it deeply moving. This synergy not only makes it so rewarding, but also ensures a longlasting impact with the viewer, that will be led to reflect upon the film’s many themes and topic long after the end credits stop rolling. – 5/5

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