The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future
Stars: Leonora Varela, Mía Maestro, Alfredo Castro, Enzo Ferrada, Laura Del Rio
This striking feature debut from Chilean writer-director Alegria is part magical realist ecology fable and part touching family drama.
Due to pollution, fish are dying in a river in a small Chilean town, their lifeless bodies washed up on land. A woman emerges from the river gasping for air. In her jumpsuit and helmet she looks like an emissary from the future. She is in fact Magdalena (Maestro), a woman who died several decades earlier.
As she wanders around the town the seemingly mute Magdalena seems to affect electrical appliances as mobile phones spark to life as she gazes in a shop window. She is spotted by her now-elderly husband Enrique (Castro) who collapses at the shock of seeing his revenant wife.
Enrique and Magdalena’s daughter Cecilia (Valera) returns from the city to the family dairy farm home to look after her father, bringing along her two children, the non-binary teenager Tomás (Ferrada) and young daughter Alma (del Rio).
Magdalena appears at the farmhouse making herself known at first to Cecilia’s children. Later while out walking, Cecilia seems to share a brief moment of psychic connection to the baying cows.
As well as the personification of hitherto unaddressed family trauma who causes Cecilia to reflect on her own role as a mother, does Magdalena also represent a Gaia-style figure come to warn humanity about the troubled ecology? This unapologetically arthouse picture juggles a lot of ideas, but Alegria favours oblique atmospherics over simple explanation. Nevertheless, her film boasts a captivatingly woozy and reflective feel in which sequences of cows and fish sounding their laments seem a perfectly reasonable proposition. In a mostly wordless performance Maestro exudes a sprite-like warmth, particularly in her rapport with outsider Tomás, as her return signals a tentative chance of rebirth and redemption.
The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future is released on 24th March
Follow David on Twitter @DWill_Crackfilm