EAM Cinema Magazine Review / by Kevin Pontuti

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Review by Alberto Sáez Villarino | Thursday, November 17, 2016 .

Kevin Pontuti, director of the feature-length film North Passage, appears on the artistic scene with an ambitious project entitled The Poetry of Penance, which consists of a series of short films, photographs, and objects, and whose purpose is the artistic representation of love, sin, remorse, and redemption in medieval Europe.  The first of these short films is Onere, an abstract metaphoric tale about the penitential crossing over of a young woman to a deep conceptual woods of acceptance.  The first sequence that we are able to contemplate shows a woman sleeping next to a large, human-looking burden, which is covered with rags and tied with ropes.  This image suggests an inexorable feeling of continuity, exhaustion, and effort.  We do not know how long the protagonist has been dragging along this heavy weight, but, by her present state, we can guess that she is not in the initial phase of her undertaking.  It is inevitably a voyage of initiation, expiation, or incrimination, since, although the task as it is depicted demands a great sacrifice which has presumably been undertaken as a matter of free will, we are not able to discern if this endeavor is meant to hide a previous reprehensible deed, rectify another regrettable action, or initiate a process of introspective change.  The director isolates us completely from the context and keeps us from any trace or bit of information from before the time depicted in the film that could facilitate our exegetical task.  We know that we are witnessing a significant chapter in the life of the young woman, but we cannot determine either the sin that has been committed, if that is what has led to the situation, or the consequences of her interrupted determination.  In order for the contents of the burden finally to be revealed, and for the spectator to understand that, in fact, the tortuous path was more about a penitent and compensatory ritual than an actual case of repentance, the events will take an unexpected turn, brought about by a renunciation of spirit and the inability to continue with this transformational journey for which she was not prepared.

An aesthetic that carries us inevitably to a medieval gothic framework indebted to the mysticism of Yeats and an almost epic magical realism that plays on the suggestion of a Homeric voyage.

 There is a deeper understanding, then, of the inability of human beings to allow to pass by certain aspects of one’s life, whether these are biological – childhood, adolescence… -, or inherent in one’s human condition – innocence, resentment, dependency… . Also, by paying attention to the polysemy of the message with its interpretive effects, given the ambiguity of what is shown, the story could be understood as the definitive path of a human being to individual and personal acceptance, a thorny process that requires great tenacity and hard work, with, however, a calming and satisfactory result, which we could derive from the peacefulness and relaxation of tension of the protagonist, when we look back at the reason for her suffering.  A young woman whose striking long red hair carries us back to folkloric mythology and to the stories of childhood, intense hair that contrasts with the pallor of her snowy complexion, intensifying the drama of her character, and by extension, the drama of her actions in a natural setting whose main feature is the cold gloom brought about by the dark clouds, the bare trees, and the poor little stream that drags itself along in agony only to die sucked up by the arid voracity of the merciless ground.  To emphasize the relevancy of the setting, Pontuti gives much more importance to the sounds of surrounding nature than to the non-diegetic minimalist music that is heard only to enhance the feeling of tension created by the contrastive image.  An aesthetic that carries us inevitably to a medieval gothic framework indebted to the mysticism of Yeats and an almost epic magical realism that plays on the suggestion of a Homeric voyage, without being able to set the structural base of an epic due to the brevity of the depicted time period. 

Data sheet: United States, 2016. Original title: "onere". Director: Kevin Pontuti. Guion: Kevin Pontuti. Studio: Penitent Productions. Photography: Ed Jakober and Peter Galante. Music: Chiwei Hui. Costume Design: Susan Jakober. Editing: Kevin Pontuti. Starring: Alexandra Loreth.

Translation by Martha Wallen