December 15, 2007
Solitary Fragments, 2007
By the time the final, pillow shot of Solitary Fragments unfolds - a congested panorama of dour, monolithic structures, interchangeable, tiled rooftops, and mobile cranes hovering over the cityscape in a perpetual state of construction and demolition - I was convinced that the film would conclude with some sort of postscript dedication to Edward Yang. And while filmmaker Jaime Rosales may have only subconsciously channeled Yang's distanciated images of liminal "city stories" that quietly unfold in the distractive chaos of an anonymous, ever transforming urban landscape (alas, the expected commemoration did not materialize), the film, nevertheless, remains a remarkable and poignant testament to Yang's indelible legacy. Opening to the bucolic image of cattle grazing at a pasture in the rural province in Leon that has been visually bisected by a foregrounding pole, the resulting split-screen becomes a recurring aesthetic that also reflects the film's parallel stories of separation, isolation, loss, and the randomness of fate. Composed of bifurcated, often long shots (usually complementary point of views of adjoining spaces or conversations that are idiosyncratically presented as a series of alternating frontal and perpendicular dialogues) and compartmentalized images (often occluded through in situ obstructions or the secondary framing of doorways and windows), Rosales reinforces the dual imagery through the interweaving stories of recent divorcée Adela (Sonia Almarcha) who, seeking a change from her uneventful life in the country, decides to make a fresh start by moving to Madrid with her infant son, and a widowed grocer, Antonia (Petra Martínez), the mother of Adela's new roommate, Inés (Miriam Correa), who struggles to find a place in her now grown daughters' lives as they work through the distractions in their own lives (including her younger daughter, Nieves's (Nuria Mencía) recent cancer diagnosis and her eldest daughter, Helena's (María Bazán) not too subtle overtures for financial assistance in buying a vacation home). Rosales demonstrates a keen eye for observation and for capturing the quotidian beauty of these seemingly cursory, often inelegant, momentary interruptions of life - the petty arguments, procrastinated plans, quiet sacrifices, acts of compassion, and conciliatory gestures - the insightful "solitary fragments" that capture life at its most intimate and honest expression of struggle, loneliness, and validation.