Bathed in the most vivid colors and the bittersweet tears of discovery, Buenas Noches, Espana (Raya Martin, 2011) careens like a skyrocket towards the infinite promises of the cosmos. It is a playbook steeped in the filtering reins of history. It finds joy in the most random moments until it totters to the jarring realizations brought about by the paintings of Juan Luna in the Bilbao Museum. However aimless it may seem, Buenas Noches stands beside Martin’s explorations of Philippine history, creating a continuing arc that ties the fictional strands of an ever-shifting narrative.
Inspired by the first documented teleportation account, where a soldier stationed in Manila suddenly appears for palace duty in Mexico, Buenas Noches is an approximation of a colonial experience sifted through foreign eyes, much like the parcels of our country’s war-torn history in books. As the film’s couple teleport through time, bookmarking Mexico, Philippines, and Spain as destinations, they weave a trail of reminiscences that silently concludes on a scraggy science-fictional landscape where history, life, and death go hand in hand with our own notions of relationships and personal journeys.
Buenas Noches gives a new meaning to the ‘road trip’ sub-genre. Igniting from the faint static of a television, to the tree-lined roads of Bilbao (or is it the Philippines?), the film unravels like a delicious psychedelic that grafts a lingering mark in your mind. The heavily processed film flips colors every now and then as the images shift in and out of time. Adding to the jarring cinematic experience is the wailing guitar feedbacks and sound effects from Saturday morning cartoons. It can prove unsettling at times, with the audiences strapped in their seats wondering where the images will take them or if there is indeed a destination, but Buenas Noches is more than a simplified history lecture or a scenic picture of two lost lovers.
In the film, the images skitter, skip, go on loops and recall the tricks of remembrances as if fact-checking they’re real or made up to patch the gnawing pain of absence. These images swirl in the droning soundscape (conjured by Owel Alvero and Pat Sarabia) until they crash and burn to the misty seas of the moon.
Of course, a film like this poses inherent difficulties for the viewers. There is no clear cut narrative and if there is, it is heavily buried in the film’s images and sound. There are guides but we’re pretty much on our own once the reel starts unspooling. As hard as it may seem, the experience of watching Buenas Noches on screen is akin to a scraggly trip down to the metal machine music rabbit hole. And we’ll all tumble along just fine.
Buenas Noches shows our playful approach of history, treating it sometimes as a game of hide and seek with overwrought names, dates, and instances. But when faced with the weight of it all, we carry our identities on our backs like sculptures of forgotten gods emerging from our collective memories. Buried in the sinewy lines of Luna’s paintings, where muscles are contracted and flexed as if to depict the struggles of his era, Buenas Noches forges images that are both painterly in effect and devastating at the same time.
Originally published on Pelikula Tumblr