Chilean filmmakers Catalina Vergara and Cristián Soto have recently received praise from British filmmaker and critic Robert Greene for their film entitled La última estación (The Last Station). Shot over a period of five years, this documentary follows the lives of five elderlies who reside together in a nursing home. It portrays the feelings of loneliness of those abandoned by family and other loved ones who have come to these homes as the “last station” on their journey toward death. Although shot at a slow pace with little dialogue, these bleak but powerful images move the viewer to confront a topic that is difficult to address. In an article for BBC Mundo, Constanza Hola Chamy writes, “It is a journey of the obvious, a slap of reality told through the most powerful tool of all: the image.”
The trailer alone demonstrates how the filmmakers utilize powerful image composition in order to expose the devastating reality of this final stage of life. While the decrepit senior citizens stagnantly lie within the dark interior of the home, only a thin layer of glass and a fence separates them from the image of youth running playfully outside. The strong juxtaposition of these images of life and death reveals the ephemerality of life. Within this documentary the stories of five individuals are told; those of don Juan, Morena, don Luis, Dorian, and Sarita. It follows each of their stories, from Sarita’s process of receiving surgery to correct her blindness to the recording of don Juan’s radio shows that broadcast ambient soundtracks for those who no longer have the ability to enjoy the outdoors. Codirectors Vergara and Soto were inspired to make this film when they visited a nursing home to find extras for a film. Vergara stated, “we visited a room for the bedridden and the image was very strong. The feeling, the atmosphere… it was very important. Upon leaving we both said, ‘We have to do a project, to tell this story.’”
La última estación was an official selection for both the Copenhagen and Leipzig documentary film festivals. It also won the grand prize of the International Festival of Pärnu in Estonia as well as first place at the Italian Sole Luna competition. The film first premiered in Chilé in late 2012 at the Festival Internacional de Cine de Valdivia and later that year had its international premiere in Dok Leipzig, Germany. Although this film has had several screenings over the past year, in 2014 they hope to distribute it at a continental level. This past weekend, January 3rd and 4th, Greene hosted a screening of this film in New York City as part of The Cinema Eye Honors Spotlight Film Series.
Greene, who is a member of the British Film Institute, also placed this film at second place on his list of the top 25 documentaries of 2013. He stated that La última estación is “a poem about dying that conjures the sad magic that great art about the end of life can sometimes accomplish, while also giving a clear-eyed observational look at the practical realities of a Chilean nursing home. Harrowing, delightful, transcendent and full of incredible captured moments, The Last Station is an unbearably moving cinematic achievement.”