I really liked the idea behind the lushly photographed "Vivan Las Antipodas." Filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky has prepared a study of contrasts when looking at the modern world. An antipode is a place on Earth that corresponds to another location if you travel directly through the planet's diameter. As so much of this world is made up of water, there aren't that many actual inhabited antipodes, but "Vivan Las Antipodas" examines four pairs. Admittedly, seven of the eight areas that we visit are sparsely populated at best. But this is more about examining images, creating a sort of visual poetry. With no narration and very little dialogue, the movie is not for every taste. But I thought it was an effective travelogue that benefited from interesting camera work, intriguing edits and transitions, and a beautiful score.
The four antipodal pairs documented:
1) The rural community of Entre Rios in Argentina is opposite the bustling vision of Shanghai, China.
2) The Patagonian area of Chile looks surprisingly similar to its antipode of Lake Baikal in Russia.
3) A sparsely populated area of volcanic activity in Hawaii is an interesting contrast to the lifestyle and wildlife of Botswana.
4) A somewhat desolate locale in Spain shares an antipode with a beach in New Zealand.
The camera glides around in "Vivan Las Antipodas" and it's both relaxing and beautiful. Some of the more spectacular images include soaring with a condor, roiling with lava, zooming along with traffic, getting up close to Africa's wildlife or spending time with a beached whale. Sometimes Kossakovsky portrays images that are sideways or upside down and this creates an extra layer of visual interest. Sometimes (many times, in fact) he just sets down and let's the quiet of an area envelope the film.
In the end, I'm not sure that the intent of "Vivan Las Antipodas" came through as successfully as it might. Meant to showcase the similarities and differences of the locations it studies, the connections are sometimes too tenuous and other times a bit obvious. It's a minor point, however, because the film works as a visceral experience. A unique work, you'll either love this or hate it. It's not meant for someone looking for traditional narrative or story. It's a more experimental film for a specialized audience. KGHarris, 6/13.