History's Image

A look at the last century in fragmented hope and despair

Everyone is important but everyone may not be indispensable. That's what Here We Are Waiting for You clearly imparts on a melancholy journey through the Twentieth Century that focuses on its most and least transcendental people. The film follows their lives and their roles in history as a matter of stature and meaning and as a confrontation between the great and the small, the high and the low.

This 90-minute Brazilian documentary seems to be strongly influenced by Berlin, Symphony of a City, a 1927 German masterpiece by Walter Ruttmann; or by The General Line (1929), one of Sergei Eisenstein's first documentaries; or even just by the use of structure and graphics typical of silent-film language and montage. Here We Are Waiting for You is rich in archival footage, exposing a reflective and philosophical stance toward life and death and the juxtaposition of the greatness of humankind and its nothingness.

It opens with takes of a humble graveyard somewhere in Brazil. From there it flows in a lunatic rhythm; images tell us the story of a character through fragmented moments. Scenes of everyday life are blended with the horrors of war and the happiness of peacetime: Freud, Einstein, and others who enlightened the last century made the world survive; tyrants like Hitler and Stalin darkened it and made entire populations disappear. From the city to the jungle, from the sky to the earth, from the body to the soul, this chant to humanity, its achievements, and its adversities, makes the case for the (in)significance of life.

Headlines and archival footage highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of the Twentieth Century
Headlines and archival footage highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of the Twentieth Century

Here We Are Waiting for You is a nonnarrative work that nonetheless achieves a synthesis of image: A soldier holding a cut-off leg throws it away as a symbol of Vietnam; and in one of the most beautiful sequences in the film, a woman who is making music with a row of water glasses reaches a poetic and terrible momentum, representing the struggle for women's rights in America.

Supported by a dramatic musical score and well-executed visual effects, the film demonstrates how a simple man's simple act sometimes represents a universal value. For example a soldier who helps build the Berlin Wall jumps over it in search of freedom and a German soldier in a different tumultuous era draws a Star of David on a window, and then ends his life in some hideaway. One after another the images reconstruct another shard of history, back and forth, without any premeditated intention of chronology, but led by a blend of rationalism and madness, traveling from World War I to the Gulf War, making stops through Vietnam and the Cold War.

In his directorial debut, Marcelo Masagao makes an important statement with this nontraditional retelling of the Twentieth Century. Masagao once worked as a psychiatric assistant in an asylum. Perhaps this close proximity to the extremes of the human condition helped him develop a more profound view of the position of mankind in history. After producing several videos and two books, Masagao made his first film using funds awarded him to produce a CD-ROM about the last century but which he decided to use for celluloid. First shown in South Florida this year at the Brazilian Film Festival of Miami, it has already won awards around South America.

 
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