February 20, 2006
Days in the Country, 2004
Continuing his preoccupation with the interpenetration of time and memory, fiction and reality of Time Regained (that would be further explored in the subsequent film The Lost Domain), Days in the Country marks Raoul Ruiz's first Chilean feature film in thirty years. Perhaps inspired by the curious radio news broadcast of his own death, an aging gentleman, Don Federico (Mario Montilles) decides to retire to his country estate in order to put down on paper an unfinished novel that has consumed his thoughts for decades - the incompletion of which has been a long-running joke and recurring topic of conversation by the regulars at his habitual café. But returning to the solitude of the country proves to be an immersive, if not surreal, experience as characters from his unrealized novel begin to act out their roles in real life, and memories from his past - his devoted maid Paulita (Bélgica Castro), family friend and town physician Dr. Chandian (Francisco Reyes), and even an old neighbor who died from an accidental dog mauling - begin to resurface in the present (made all the more tortuous and fantastic by their physical resemblance to the regular cast of characters at the café). Ruiz's whimsical conflation of reality and imagination defies easy categorization or tidy resolution, but nevertheless, provides a witty, incisive, and ingeniously crafted meditation on mortality, regret, memory, and the iterative process of artistic creation.