Hiroshima (Director: Pablo Stoll): Described as a “silent musical”, Hiroshima follows the director’s brother Juan through a typical day. Though not a documentary, the film incorporates many documentary elements, including the presence of Stoll’s family starring as themselves. Juan doesn’t talk much, but he loves music, and often has his earphones in. The film begins with a remarkable shot, lasting 7 or 8 minutes, following Juan home from his night shift job at a bakery.
We soon discover that all the dialogue in the film is displayed on intertitle cards, as in old silent films. This makes the communication between characters in the film rudimentary at best, so although Juan interacts with many friends during the course of the film, very little of what could be called normal conversation occurs. Instead, we see him riding his bike, smoking a lot of cigarettes, and always, always listening to music. The impression the audience might get is that Juan is a typical twenty-something slacker, living with his parents and working odd jobs. He passes the time by smoking and playing in a band. After almost an hour of following the nearly wordless Juan around, many in the audience became restive, and there were quite a few walkouts.
After spending some time visiting friends in the countryside outside Montevideo, Juan returns to the city just in time for his band’s gig. The film ends with Juan looking directly into the camera for the first time and singing a song called Hiroshima. It’s the only time we hear his voice, or any adult human voice in the film.
The film is quite technically accomplished and has a really strong soundtrack of underground Uruguayan punk and rock bands. Though I found Juan himself quite watchable, I found the lack of a story or any developed characters a bit disappointing. It was only during the director’s Q&A that we learn more about the circumstances behind the film. Pablo Stoll’s brother Juan really is as uncommunicative as he is in the film. I suspect he may have some form of Asperger’s Syndrome, since he appears only to be able to communicate through or about music. Pablo said he made the film mainly as a way to encourage his brother to be more a part of the world, since he has a tendency to withdraw. Though I found this touching, I think if he’d been able to communicate a bit more of that to the audience, the film would be stronger. As it is, I’m sure this very personal film has fulfilled all the goals Stoll had for it. I’m just not sure it will have any commercial potential.
Here is the Q&A with director Pablo Stoll from after the screening: