Cinema Chile

Valeria Sarmiento on ‘The Tango of the Widower and its Distorting Mirror’ by Ruiz: “Sometimes I’d guess what he wanted to do; I hope that in this film this is the case”

February 5, 2020

The Tango of the Widower and its Distorting Mirror is the title of the film, directed by Raúl Ruiz and Valeria Sarmiento, that will have its world premiere in the Forum section at the Berlinale (February 20 – March 1) and that, in addition, will be responsible for kicking off the category. Forum’s objective is to broaden understanding of what cinema is, test the limits of its conventions, and open up to new perspectives to help comprehend cinema and how it relates to the world in new ways, thus positioning itself as a highly prestigious section with a selective program.

Raúl ruiz y valeria sarmiento, memoria chilena

Raúl Ruiz y Valeria Sarmiento, 1969

Sarmiento, who in 2018 premiered her latest film The Black Book, is a prolific Chilean director and editor, and was the one responsible for concluding the work that late filmmaker Raúl Ruiz initiated in 1967 and was not able to finish due to the lack of funding. In the words of Sarmiento, “My work consisted in turning the film into a contemporary piece.”

In the restoration and completion of the film, Sarmiento was accompanied by the team behind production company Poetastros, which is made up of actress-producer Chamilla Rodríguez and audiovisualist Galut Alarcón, also responsible for salvaging and reconstructing material from the film The Wandering Soap Opera in 2016 and 2017, also by Ruiz, and which premiered in 2017 at the Locarno Film Festival. Meanwhile, this film, like a large part of Ruiz and Sarmiento’s filmography, boasts the collaboration of renowned artist Jorge Arriagada, who was in charge of putting music to the piece with elements such as a sonata composed for a chamber orchestra of saws played with metal bows and theremins.

In the words of Ruiz, “The story of ‘The Tango of the Widower and its Distorting Mirror’ revolves around a man whose late wife appears to him as a ghost. The ghost follows him everywhere, under the bed, under tables… The more she appears, the more the man begins to resemble her, becoming more and more feminine, in a spiral through which we discover that he was never married, and that it’s simply a splitting of his personality and a schizophrenic game.” The film stars Luis Alarcón, who participated in a large part of Ruiz’s work, and Delfina Guzmán, who is renowned to this day for her extensive career in theater and television.

Regarding what it was like to reconstruct the film after 50 years, Sarmiento comments, “Six numbered reels were found from 2 to 7. One reel was missing and none of them had sound. I suppose that in that era, since there was no direct sound, they had always imagined dubbing it later in a studio. And that’s what we did. Thanks to three women who could read their lips, we were able to reconstruct part of the dialogues. Later, a new script had to be worked on, and to that end I worked with Omar Saavedra Santis.”

The relationship between the two directors began after the completion of the feature film Three Sad Tigers (1968) and ended with Night Across the Street (2011), the last film shot by Ruiz before his death. This close relationship allowed a kind of creative complicity to be developed, about which Sarmiento confesses, “Sometimes I’d guess what he wanted to do; I hope that in this film — The Tango of the Widower and its Distorting Mirror — this is the case.”

Following the presentation of The Tango of the Widower and its Distorting Mirror in Forum, the filmmaker comments that she plans to continue developing a feature film project with Poetastros to be shot in Valparaíso, her hometown. “We’ll see if we achieve it. It’s called Detrás de la lluvia [literally: ‘behind the rain’],” says Sarmiento.



Luis Alarcón in ‘The Tango of the Widower and its Distorting Mirror’, premiering soon in Forum.