Channel. 72 minutes.
As Láthair opens in the final few moments of life. A visually
rich and innovative reworking of the Western genre, the film uses a
fragmented, episodic narrative to tell the story of a fugitive and a
bounty hunter who are locked into pursuit over the brutal landscapes
of Baja, Mexico. Using a hypnotic, dreamlike visual style, and a lyrical
narration based in Irish folklore and history, this experimental film
parallels rich multi-layered depictions of Western bravado with narrated
stories of displacement and removal. In examining both the Western and
the West, the film intensifies the forgotten moments of tragedy found
beneath the veneer of recorded history.
Against the stunning backdrop of the desolate desert locations of Baja,
a series of scenes are played out, through which we become aware of
past debts and mistakes, ghostly echoes of which persist. We travel
from small bustling market towns to isolated deserted villages, passing
between worlds, from a secluded oasis in the center of the desert to
the floor of an immense dry lakebed. On this parched plain as the characters
on screen stand opposite each other for their final conflict, the last
pieces of this intricate puzzle come together.
The images on screen are paralleled by a narrator’s voice; a wise
woman based on the character of the traditional Irish storyteller. Her
stories give a voice to those not included in the history recorded by
the camera, those communities who once inhabited the places in which
the film was shot, those displaced by Western expansion. The narrator
recounts these stories of long forgotten communities with a sense of
tragedy which provides a counterpoint and parallel to the actions of
the two characters on screen.
Ultimately, these elements come together to examine how our history
of organized civilization is also a history of violence and exclusion.
The colonial history of the West and the history of cinema are presented
side by side to allow points of intersection to develop.
* Translation Note: As Láthair is an Irish term which translates
as absent/out of place.