BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Jul 13th, 2009 •

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EARTHQUAKE IN CHILE is the a story of forbidden love between Josephe Asteron the nun (Julia Peña) and her tutor Jeronimo Rugera (Victor Acalzar) set against the backdrop of Spanish colonial Chilé. When Josephe is found to be pregnant, both she and Jeronimo are imprisoned. Jeronimo attempts suicide, while Josephe is prepared for her execution.

Originally produced for television in West Germany in 1974 by Filmverlag der Autoren and written and directed by celebrated feminist filmmaker of the “New German Cinema” Helma Sanders-Brahms, EARTHQUAKE IN CHILE throws the audience into the story with scant setup. Narration at the opening sets the scene in a way that was dissatisfying to this reviewer, and we begin with Josephe and Jeronimo in prison. From that point a miraculous and predictable earthquake spares Josephe and Jeronimo from certain doom. The survivors scatter into the wilderness; Jeronimo and Josephe are reunited and eventually meet their delayed fate in a suitably tragic fashion.

The DVD sports a very high quality transfer, but bear in mind that the original was for television and as such inevitably winds up looking like a high quality soap opera. I felt that EARTHQUAKE IN CHILE made emotional demands on the audience without properly establishing an emotional attachment in the audience to those characters. Of course I must also admit that my lukewarm feelings could easily have been the result of a cultural divide. I don’t speak German, and I’m always suspicious of the ability of subtitling to adequately replace the original spoken dialogue.

I’m certain that EARTHQUAKE IN CHILE must have resonated strongly with audiences at the time, as is made evident by Helma Sanders-Brahms’ long career since 1975. Perhaps I missed the point, or the historical significance of this particular piece of German cinema, but the predictable storyline, in my estimation, ultimately falls a bit flat.

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