SXSW 2022: A Vanishing Fog – Vibrant Surrealism In A Beautiful Landscape

Everything will end forever, we will disappear into a vanishing fog.

Modernity creeps through the landscape of our planet, a slowly encroaching beast that cares not whether anyone truly desires to accept the new way of life it offers. In the far reaches of the earth, high in the mountains, enshrouded in mist, tradition lives on, within people who understand and feel the motion and heartbeat of the planet. A carefully balanced ecosystem, man and the dirt beneath in a symbiotic relationship, each tending to each other as has been carefully achieved for millennia. These people that exist in good faith with their ecological benefactor have no interest in the curling tendrils of modernity, there is no need for it in this beautiful land, untouched by industrialization and the blood that so often comes with it. Yet it is always there, threatening, these esoteric reminders that this carefully crafted balance could soon slip away once that world that has been so long kept at arm’s length finds itself determined to cross the unseen barrier into this hidden world.

Taking place and entirely filmed within the Páramo de Sumapaz, a massive remote ecosystem within Colombia, director Augusto Sandino’s A Vanishing Fog is as distant from traditional cinema as it is distant from civilization, an exercise in minimalist and abstract visual storytelling. Evocative and beautiful landscapes and kineticism free of the heavy chains of dialogue and specific narrative, instead a film that tells all through its potent steeping in its culturalism and location, cinema at its most pure and faithful. With visual surrealism reminiscent of the great Alejandro Jodorowsky, the film follows young protagonist F, an almost mythical protector of the land he lives his quiet life upon. Spending his days facing the often harsh weather of his surroundings as he attempts to watch over the landscape as well as care for the declining health of his father, F is eroded by the many corners of his life all contradicting one another, quickly becoming an impossibility that he seems unable to overcome.

The surrounding world creeps ever closer, the threat of anxieties all too familiar constantly whispering through the night, the roar of a car engine or the droning hum of an escalator cutting through the peaceful quiet of the wilderness. F exists to protect the great country that surrounds him, a country that has experienced so much suffering at the hands of those tendrils of modernity finding their way through the lush landscapes and dense forests. The blood and death must not reach this final oasis of thriving beauty, but it is ever present in his mind, intersecting with the rolling hills and the stoic mountains, Jodorowsky’s acid dipped surrealism tuned into something peacefully melancholy.

Sandino’s deft and precise direction transforms A Vanishing Fog from the formless abstract into something pointed and profound, his personal voice cutting through the kaleidoscopic visuals to craft something that feels effortlessly meaningful. Without dialogue aside from a few lines spoken in a fictional language, most of the film’s points of specificity come from wisdom scrawled across the screen like notes on a page, thoughts that coincide with the simultaneously hopeful and sorrowful imagery. It is both a quiet and peaceful understanding that humanity shall return to the dirt from whence we came, that we are merely specks in a vast cosmos, but also a plea for love and empathy while we spend the time we have been granted. It’s remarkably affecting and evocative, and while the obfuscated, high concept storytelling angles occasionally fall into the realm of tedium, there are enough moments of wonderfully pure cinema here to craft a vivid and memorable experience.

7/10

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